Leafs put on a brave face on eve of Murdoch Division opener against Beaver Valley
Following the decision to forfeit their final game of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League 2015-16 regular season Sunday against Grand Forks, the Nelson Leafs now turn to face a humungous task as the Heritage City franchise prepares to face the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the first round of the Murdoch Division playoffs.
The banged-up Leafs face a Broad-Street-Bully-like Nitehawk team that won the season series against the Green and White, finishing 33 points ahead of the fourth-place club with a 34-11-4-0-3 mark.
Still the Leafs refuse to back down heading into Game one of the best-of-seven series that begins Tuesday in Fruitvale.
“We have to use our team speed to chip pucks past them and rely on the refereeing to look after the clutching and grabbing and late hits,” said Leaf coach Mario DiBella on the eve of the series.
Of course it’s been well documented the Leafs plight over the past few weeks icing a lineup.
Playing a schedule down the stretch that saw the team play eight games in 15 days in February, the Leafs saw player after the player spend time with the training staff.
However, the coaching staff is optimistic the Leafs can give the Nitehawks a run provided key players return to the lineup.
“I think if we get these (injured) players back in the lineup, some who are impact players who might take a game to shake out the cobwebs, but I know this team is a very competitive group that are excited about starting the playoff run,” DiBella explained.
Game two of the series goes Wednesday in Fruitvale with the series shifting back to Nelson Friday and Saturday for games three and four at the NDCC Arena.
Injury list report
The list of players on the Leafs injury continues to be very long for a team wanting to make a long trek into the post season.
A quick scan of the defence sees Dash Thompson questionable while Aigne McGeady-Bruce and Max Daerendinger are both out for the series.
Daerendinger was injured during Friday loss to Spokane Braves.
Forward Blair Andrews is day-to-day while defenceman Smith and forward Eamonn Miller are both expected back in the lineup Tuesday.
Major Midgets to the rescue
To fill out the Leafs lineup, DiBella has put in a call to Kootenay Ice coach Brian Jones to ask for the services of defencemen Brendan Mckay and Kaleb Comishin and forward Riley Swiscoski.
Williams to start Game one
DiBella is happy with the play of netminder Josh Williams to give the former Alberta Junior Hockey goalie the start in Game one.
Williams came to the Leafs at the January roster deadline from Bonnyville Pontiacs.
Williams, 18, was injured for most of the latter part of the season, playing in only three games — two against Creston and Spokane the last week of the season.
DiBella said no decision has been made on which goalie — Williams or Patrick Ostermann — would start Game three.