Life as a member of the Nelson Leafs 'couldn’t be better' says head coach
Leaf coach Dave McLellan continues to work his magic with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League franchise.
The Green and White currently hold down top spot in the Murdoch Division with a 3-0-1-1 record — one point in front of the surprising Spokane Braves.
However, before the PR department starts organizing any championship parade down Baker Street, let’s realize this is September and not April.
And make sure everyone realizes the fact Nelson has played four of the five games this season at home in the friendly confines of the NDCC Arena.
So four weeks in the season, how does coach Dave McLellan rate the club?
“If you would have told me during training camp this far into the season we were in first place in the division, I’d would have been surprise so it couldn’t be better.”
Are there any changes pending on the horizon?
“No changes, but I’m actively looking at improving the team all the time. I’m currently in the process of acquiring a player right now . . . but it’s early in the process so we’ll see what happens.”
So is the game plan to keep the team the same until a player or two comes down the pipeline?
“We’re always looking for a new piece, but we’re not going to change anything drastically right now. We like what we’ve got. The key thing is we have a good off-ice group and a good on-ice so we don’t want to disrupt it too much but if there’s something that makes sense to help we’ll certainly add the piece.”
You said the Leafs need to land a goal scorer. Where are you hoping to find any new players?
“It could be in our league, the KI, it could be in the BC Hockey League or other junior leagues we’re looking. I’m making sure I’m contacting people on the regular basis to let them know what we’re looking for and if they have a player whose fallen through the cracks at the high level. And there’s still a potential at the Western Hockey League player coming in our direction as well.”
Tuesday, against Grand Forks the Leafs jumped to a 3-0 lead early in the first period, but were unable to close. What happened?
“It was one of those games where we maybe let it get away from us . . . up 3-0 right away. Junior players sometimes lose their focus of what we were trying to do. Give Grand Forks credit, they battled back to get themselves back into the game. . .. Their two goals were a result of our mistakes, bad decisions of pinching on the puck . . . but ultimately we won the game, which was mainly our focus. Anytime you can win at this level, it’s good.
What makes you the most happy about the Leafs?
“I really like the camaraderie of the team and we’re close to one of the best defensive teams in the league, which always has been a focus of mine. I want us to be good from our own zone, out. And I’m really happy with that aspect of our team and our hard work overall, in practice and in games. Work ethic, as coaches, is something we’re pushing . . . we want to out work our opposition and we’re happy with that so far.”
Any disapointing factors?
“Consistency, mainly. We strive to have our players really push forward on systems play. Players are not all the time sure of what we’re asking, so once we get more consistent, and understand, especially our forecheck . . . we’ve been hemming teams in for a long time when our forecheck works but when it doesn’t we get two goals scored against the flow of the play like we did against Grand Forks.”
Back to work Friday for a two-game weekend home stand. What do you expect?
“I like that we’re seeing teams coming to play us here at the top of the standings. I expect Kimberley and Sicamous to provide some solid opposition for us. Early in the year, for us as coaches, we want to play against tough teams so we can see what we need to improve on and work through.”
LEAF NOTES: Kimberley arrives in Nelson undefeated in three games and one point behind Eddie Mountain leader Golden Rockets. Meanwhile, Sicamous is tied for second in the Doug Birks Division, one point in back of Revelstoke Grizzlies. Game time Friday is 7 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. start time Sunday. . . .Nelson is tied with Osoyoos Coyotes and Princeton Posse for allowing the least amount of goals in the entire KIJHL, with 13. . . . Surprisingly, that solid defence is leading the team in offensive stats as defencemen Robson Cramer (4 goals, 3 assists), Patrick Croome (3 goals, 2 assists) and Darnel St. Pierrie (1 goal, four assists) sit tied for first and tied for second, respectively, in Leaf scoring. Rayce Miller (4 goals, 3 assists) and Nelson Minor Hockey product Nolan Percival (2 goals, 3 assists) are the forwards in the top mix.