This is another great test of the Nelson Leafs
Sporting a 3-3 record, the Nelson Leafs play host to hottest team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, Murdoch Division leading Beaver Valley Nitehawks, Friday at the NDCC Arena.
The Hawks have been tearing up the league, outscoring the opposition 29-13 en route to a six-game winning streak to open the campaign.
“It’s early in the year,” said Leaf coach and GM Dave McLellan when asked about the tail of two different teams taking to the ice for the 7 p.m. puck drop Friday.
“It’s not like we’re getting blown out in our games. We’re out shooting most of the teams we’ve played against.”
Some of the Leafs troubles have been the tough, early season schedule McLellan penciled in during the summer and the roster filled with younger, but skilled, players needing understand the difference between junior and minor hockey.
Nelson has played league heavyweights like Kelowna, Fernie and Osoyoos, all in the first month of the season.
“I did that on purpose . . . schedule us against a lot of the top teams,” McLellan explained. “It provides us with a benchmark of where our team is in the league.”
Beaver Valley has been led by 20-year-old forwards Braden Fuller and Jace Weegar, and set-up man Allan Pruss, leading the Hawkls with eight assists.
Nelson travels to Spokane Sunday to meet the Braves in an afternoon encounter.
The Leafs defeated Spokane 4-1 in the first meeting of the season.
New players join the Leafs
McLellan told The Nelson Daily he’s added a few new players to the roster, a little earlier than the skipper previously thought would happen.
Tyler Garia, who played for Nelson in the past, arrives in camp from 100 Mile House Wranglers to provide some much-needed leadership on the forward line for the Leafs.
“Tyler is a 20-year-old forward we’re looking to to help some of our younger players learn how to score,” McLellan explained.
“We’ve got 14 rookies on this team who are very skilled but are not used to playing at the junior level.”
Garcia, from Anchorage, Alaska, played 26 games for Nelson in 2013-14 before being traded to Kimberley Dynamiters.
He started the next season with Kimberley before being dispatched to 100 Mile House.
Also expected in camp soon is defenceman Austin Anselmo, who was released by Coquitlam Express of the BC Hockey League.
Players in, Players out
McLellan said forward Timothy Nichols should be back after missing the past four games due to injury.
However, captain Rayce Miller is gone for both weekend games after being hit with a two-game suspension.
Miller twice was whistled for goaltender interference penalties during Friday, September 25 against Princeton Posse.
The two goalie infractions carries an automatic two-game sit.
Green and White Rotation between the Pipes
It’s goaltending by committee to start the season for the Leafs as the coaching staff continues to rotate goalies.
McLellan said both Joseph Barton and Everett Yasinski will continue to see action as the Leafs sort out the the net minding position.
Parent to fill seats on Parent Weekend
Next weekend Nelson hosts three games at the NDCC Arena as the franchise welcomes the parents to the Heritage City to see the players in action.
Nelson meets Golden Rockets, Friday, Beaver Valley, Saturday, and Summerland Steam, Sunday.