Off-ice decision proves costly for a trio of Leaf players
Leaf coach Dave McLellan tabbed November a “pivotal month” in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season for the Heritage City franchise.
However, finding success against Murdoch Division opposition — Nelson plays nine of its 11 games in November against divisional teams — just got a little more difficult for the Green and White after Leaf brass sent three players home for missing curfew Halloween night.
“We have very strict team rules dealing with on and off-ice behavior,” McLellan told The Nelson Daily Wednesday.
“The rules are there for a reason, especially after what went on with this team in the past. The players breached curfew on Halloween night, and it cost the three of them.”
The players sent home include Nelson’s top netminder, Brett Soles along with defenceman Brendan Smith and 16-year-old rearguard Cody Paivarinta.
McLellan said he is actively trying to find trading partners for Soles, ranked fourth overall in KIJHL goalies, and Smith.
“We’re actively trying to move and acquire assets back in quick time,” McLellan said.
“The players have been sent home until such time as they’re traded.”
Soles was in his second stint with the Leafs after returning to the Green and White from the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
In 12 games the Cranbrook native posted an impressive 9-1-1 record with a 2.43 goals against average.
“Brett is a good kid . . . he just make a mistake breaking curfew,” McLellan said. “This is a huge loss to our team but we have rules in place for specific reasons. Unfortunately Brett put himself before the team.”
Smith, who played in 15 games for Nelson, has been out of the line up with an injured wrist.
As a 16-year-old, McLellan said Paivarinta falls under special BC Hockey exemption and cannot be traded.
The towering rookie defenceman was sent home to Abbotsford.
The loss of the three players further depletes and already crippled Leaf roster.
Nelson already had forwards Austin Lindsay and Blair Andrews on the injured reserve list and is now missing defenceman Darnel St. Pierre to junior hockey suspension for an accumulation of hit-to-the-head penalties.
“We could be facing quite a short roster this weekend,” McLellan confessed.
“Right now we have three defencemen and between nine and 10 forwards and one goaltender.”
As a result of the decision McLellan has been burning up the phone lines in an attempt to move the suspended players.
Nelson travels to Creston Friday to meet the Thunder Cats before concluding the weekend Saturday for a return date against Spokane Braves.
The Braves edged Nelson 4-3 Sunday in the Lilac City.
Goalie Adam Maida has now been thrust into the No. 1 role. McLellan said he’s still working on a back up for Maida.
Nelson continues its road swing to Beaver Valley (November 15) and Castlegar (November 16) before returning home (Wednesday) November 19 to meet Grand Forks.
As for the mood in the dressing room after the decision was made to suspend the three players?
“By all indication the players support the decision,” McLellan said.