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No joy in Leafville as Aldergrove edges Nelson to advance to Cyclone Taylor Finale

Bruce Fuhr
By Bruce Fuhr
April 13th, 2014

Hopes of bringing a Cyclone Taylor Championship back to the Heritage City for the first time in more than 45 years came to a crashing halt for the Nelson Leafs Saturday night at the NDCC Arena.

The Aldergrove Kodiaks rode the red-hot netminding of Jordan Liem to a 2-1 victory over the Leafs during the final round robin of the Cyclone Taylor Cup.

The win allows the Kodiaks to advance into the Gold Medal game Sunday at 2:30 p.m. while the Leafs play for the bronze.

“We came in with the mindset of we want to win a hockey game . . . I didn’t even mention (tie) to the players before the game,” said Kodiak skipper Brad Rihela when asked about playing for the single point.

“We’re trying to gain as much momentum as we can after losing the opener and it’s always a focus for out club to try to get the two points.”

Aldergrove entered the contest tied for second spot in tournament standings with Victoria Cougars — each with two points.

Nelson was fourth with a single point, but could advance into the final against Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

However, Nelson needed to win the game to leapfrog over both Aldergrove and Victoria.

The Leafs got the start they wanted when Aaron Dunlap put the puck past Liem from close range midway through the first period.

At that point of the game, Nelson carried the play, out shooting Aldergrove by an 11-2 margin.

But the Kodiaks found the equalizer less than a minute later.

A Leaf turnover at center ice sprung two Kodiak players in on the Leaf defence allowing Stephen Ryan to deposit the puck past a surprised Brad Rebagliati in the Nelson nets.

Nelson, a team averaging 4.75 goals per game during the regular season, pressed for the go-ahead goal.

But the score remained tied for the next 49 minutes.

Needing the win, Leaf coach Frank Maida pulled Rebagliati in favour of an extra attacker to try to find the winning goal.

But after applying pressure in the Aldergrove end of the ice the puck squirted outside the Kodiak bluleline with Aaron Martin jumping on a loose biscut before drilling a wrist shot into the empty Nelson net.

“This is heartbreaking,” said Rebagliati from outside a very somber Leaf dressing room.

“We needed that win. We wanted to be in the final against BV . . . we came here to win the Cyclone. We’re the host team and it would have been great to win it in front of our home fans but we’re all pretty devastated right now.”

The Leafs now meet Victoria Cougars at 10 a.m.

Rebagliati realizes it’s going to be tough for the Leafs to get ready to meet the Cougars after failing to achieve their goal of the Cyclone Cup.

“It’s definitely going to be tough,” Rebagliati admitted. “You want to be playing in that second game . . .. Having to wake up early after a disappointing loss like this is definitely tough but it’s something we’re going to have to do.”

CYCLONE NOTES: To no one’s surprise, Jordan Liem was named MVP for Aldergrove in the contest. Nelson’s top player was Aaron Dunlap. . . .Former Leaf coach Simon Wheeldon joined Nelson Home Building game sponsor Randy and Sydney Horswill for the cermonial puck drop to start the game.

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