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Considering the circumstances, Leafs off to a great start

The Nelson Daily Sports
By The Nelson Daily Sports
September 18th, 2014

It’s not the best-case scenario — playing six home games in September to start the season — but those are the cards Dave McLellan and the Nelson Leafs have been dealt.

And the way the team has responded thus far this Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season, who’s going to bet against them.

Nelson begins week two of the KIJHL campaign Friday in Beaver Valley against the defending league champs bolstered by a three-point weekend at home on opening weekend.

However, after Friday’s tilt in Fruitvale, Nelson plays four more games at the NDCC Arena, beginning Saturday against the always-tough Kamloops Storm.

“Sure it puts a bit of pressure on us, but it also, if we do well at home here, it’s going to make (NDCC Arena) a tough place to play if you’re the opposing team coming into our arena,” McLellan explained.

“We’re going build our team around our arena,” he added. “This is a great facility, there’s a great sheet of ice and we want to have a team that can skate and make plays on it as well.”

Nelson opened the season with a tie against the Nitehawks before exploding for three goals in the third period to erase a lead and dump rival Castlegar 5-3 Saturday.

“We want to make this place a tough place to play, and hopefully we have a good month at home, that would really do us well to help us get off to a good start,” McLellan said.

Like most KIJHL clubs, rosters are far from set — Leafs included.

The late start by the BC Hockey League only exacerbated the situation as late cuts have only begun to trickle down the Junior B pipeline.

For McLellan & Company, that has led to plenty of pieces still remaining to fill out the Leaf player puzzle.

“I’m trying to find the piece I’d like to add,” McLellan confessed when asked about the remainder of the roster.

“We’re pretty happy where we’re at now but it would be good to find a top six forward and that’s sort of our focus right now. And if it requires a trade to do that, we’ll do it.”

The Leafs reaped some early rewards when McLellan was able to snag former Nelson goalie Brett Soles.

The Cranbrook native, who played two seasons ago for Nelson, toiled with Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Soles, 19, played 15 games for the Hounds last season, finishing with a 6-8-1 record, and gives Nelson a one-two combo between the pipes with Adam Maida.

Another piece McLellan was able to add was 16-year-old protégé Cody Paivarinta via the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League.

Paivarinta, whose uncle Henry is a retired Deputy Chief with Nelson Police Department, comes to Leafs compliments of former Nelson native and now coach and GM of the Raiders Bruno Campese.

“The goal is to develop Cody into a player who can compete at the Western Hockey League level and he’s shown really good signs already here with us,” McLellan said.

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