Leafs eager to play a few tricks on Rockies at NDCC Arena
The Nelson Leafs will want to pull a few tricks on the opposition as the Heritage City franchise returns to action in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Saturday at home against the Columbia Valley Rockies.
Nelson, the hottest team in the KIJHL with four straight wins, hosts a Rockies team that is dead last in the Eddie Mountain Division with a 3-9-0-3 record.
Meanwhile the Leafs, after struggling to find goals earlier this season, reeled off 16 in the last two games — an 8-6 win over Grand Forks and an 8-0 shellacking of the Golden Rockets.
While he is quick to push aside any suggestion he’s the sniper the Leafs have been looking for, the recent offensive stats of 16-year-old Dylan Williamson speak volumes.
The rookie winger has 11 points in five games, including a four-goal outburst against Golden.
“I think its just luck right now for me,” Williamson said. “It’s everyone that’s just stepping up right now. Every line is playing well and it’s just going great for us.”
Of course, getting to the Leafs almost did not happen for Williamson.
There was some paperwork that had to get sorted out before the 6-foot, 160-pound forward could suit up for the Leafs after being re-assigned to Nelson from Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League.
“That was pretty frustrating,” Williamson admitted.
“I just wanted to play some games and missing the first two weekends wasn’t a lot of fun.”
“But having patience and getting the practice with the team really helped me because I came in without knowing anyone,” he added. “Now I have chemistry with my line and playing is just going great now.”
Goaltending controversy? What goaltending controversy
Despite playing five less games than Leaf starter Brett Soles, back up Adam Maida says there is no goalie controversy on the team.
In fact, there’s nothing but respect between the two netminders.
“Brett and I have known each other for quite a few years,” Maida explained. “We get along great and he’s one of my closet friends on the team.”
“It’s awesome,” he added. “We get behind each other when we need it.”
Soles has been a pleasant find for Leaf coach Dave McLellan.
The Leaf coach grabbed the former Leaf netminder before the season started and the move has paid huge dividends for the Murdoch Division leaders.
Soles is currently fourth in KIJHL netminding stats, including nine wins in 12 games.
Maida had a bounce back weekend after getting hung out to dry during a three-game road trip to KIJHL north.
The Nelson Minor Hockey product registered a shutout the last time out against Golden.
Liking the home cooking, again
Matt MacDonald, a player jettisoned out of Nelson to Revelstoke Grizzlies last season before playing out the campaign in Fernie, currently leads Nelson in scoring with seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points.
The Nelson Minor Hockey grad, playing his final season of junior hockey in his hometown, is presently riding a seven-game point streak, including a pair of four-point games last weekend against Grand Forks and Golden.
Mobile defenceman Robson Cramer is second with 19 points followed by Rayce Miller in third with 18 points. Miller had led the team in scoring for most of the season.
Back on the road again
After Saturday’s contest against Columbia Valley, Nelson, leaders in the Murdoch Division with an 11-3-2-1 record, heads out on the road for five games, including a Sunday afternoon tilt in Spokane against the Braves.
Game time Saturday is 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena.
Nelson plays in Creston, Spokane, Castlegar and Beaver Valley before returning home Wednesday, November 19 against Grand Forks Border Bruins.