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Nitehawks put an end to nightmare season of Nelson Leafs

Bruce Fuhr
By Bruce Fuhr
February 28th, 2016

The 2015-16 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season for the Nelson Leafs had the ride of a Silverwood rollercoaster, up one day, down the next.

So it came as no surprise to many fans that the end of the season would come on a downer for the Heritage City franchise.

Saturday night, at the NDCC Arena, saw the conclusion of the nightmare campaign for the Green and White when the Beaver Valley Nitehawks scored a 1-0 decision over the Leafs to sweep the best-of-seven Murdoch Division Semi Final 4-0.

The Hawks now advance to meet the winner of the Grand Forks/Castlegar series while the Leafs look to the future to try to rebuild this once proud franchise.

“We sure would have liked to see this series continue but we feel we now have a platform and a little bit of structure now back into the organization,” said Leaf president John Dooley following the contest.

“Unfortunately we ran into a lot of injuries to some of our key players and that hurt us in this series.”

“But I think you can tell from this playoff round that clearly there’s a bit of direction now and it wasn’t from a lack of effort that these young men lost tonight,” Dooley added.

All the scoring Beaver Valley would need came at the two minute mark of the second period when Kyle Hope scored an unassisted tally past Josh Williams in the Leaf nets.

The Hawks then rode the stellar netminding of Tallon Kramer for the remainder of the game to seal the victory and the series.

“I have to say in Games three and four, (Tallon) Kramer was outstanding,” said Leaf coach Mario DiBella.

“There were probably six opportunities where we could have buried the puck but (Kramer) just came up with a terrific save.”

Nelson, which out shot the Hawks 31-25 in the game, received a terrific performance from Williams in the Leaf nets.

Despite going out four straight, DiBella, who came on board before Christmas when the executive made a change in the coaching staff, was pleased with the resiliency of a hockey team that was left battered and bruised by the former regime.

“I think this team performed to its potential,” DiBella explained. “I think the players who had the confidence beaten out of them just didn’t get that confidence back they had coming into the season.”

Unfortunately, for Leaf fans there will be no more playoff hockey in March for the fifth consecutive year — four of the past five playoff exits happening in the first round at the hands of the Nitehawks.

As for DiBella, he’ll wait for the dust to settle before making a decision if he wants to return behind the bench to lead the Leafs next season.

“That remains to be seen,” he said.

LEAF BANTER: It was an emotional post-game handshake for Nelson Minor Hockey grad Nolan Percival, who was traded to Beaver Valley during the season. The speedy forward stop to share hugs with many of his former teammates. . . . Leaf forward Cleary Ambrose was back in the lineup for Nelson after missing Friday’s game with the flu. . . . The Hawks have a few days to rest while waiting for the winner of the Castlegar/Grand Forks series. Saturday in Grand Forks Chris Breese scored this third goal of the game early in overtime to spark the Rebels to the 6-5 victory. The series is tied 2-2 with Game five Monday in Castlegar. The series then shifts back to Grand Forks for Game six Tuesday. The first game of the Murdoch Final is slated for Saturday, March 5 in Fruitvale.

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