Start of something big — Leafs host Braves in home opener
Following a weekend split on the road to start the season, the Nelson Leafs host the Spokane Braves Friday at the NDCC Arena as the Heritage City franchise opens its 2016-17 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season.
The game, set for 7 p.m. puck drop, is a rematch of Saturday’s inaugural 6-2 victory for Nelson in the Lilac City.
“Fans are going to see a very fast, hard-working team with lots of skill on the front end and great puck movement from the players,” Leaf head coach Mario DiBella told The Nelson Daily when asked about the new-look squad.
“They’re going to see a pour pourri of different styles of hockey.”
Nelson opened the season losing 3-1 in Fruitvale to the Nitehawks before rallying to dump Spokane.
“I was happy that we were able to rebound in Spokane,” said DiBella.
“We were just flying out there.”
DiBella was quick to take the blame for not preparing the players for the league-opener against Beaver Valley.
“After going undefeated in the preseason, the expectation was it was going to be easy against a hard-working BV team,” he said. “I should have better prepared them. The players were not ready and that’s on me.”
DiBella said 6’3” center Levi Hulston, who played 51 games last season for Nelson, finishing fourth in team scoring signed with Langley of the BCHL.
Nelson, tied for second behind Beaver Valley in Murdoch Division standings, is also expecting a couple more Junior A cuts to return to the club.
DiBella said netminder Jason Sandhu will get the start Friday against Spokane with Ben Kelsch seeing his first action Saturday in Castlegar.
LEAF NOTES: Nelson Minor Hockey product Sawyer Hunt has the early lead in goals and points for the Leafs after two games. Hunt, who was dealt to Nelson from Kimberley during the off season, leads with three points. Five players are tied for second with two points.