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Leafs looking to keep the streak alive during road trip to Spokane, Kimberley

The Nelson Daily Sports
By The Nelson Daily Sports
December 16th, 2016

It’s not quite in the same category as the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers 35-game winning streak from 1980, but for a team that was taking on more water than the Titanic during November, a five-game streak most definitely feels pretty darn good.

The Nelson Leafs have a chance to add to the streak Friday when the squad travels to the Lilac City for a date against the Spokane Braves.

Saturday, Nelson takes a ride over the Purcells to meet the Kimberley Dynamiters before taking a few days off with the Christmas Holiday break.

“I thought even when we were losing this team wasn’t that far off,” said head coach and Director of Player Personnel, Mario DiBella on the eve of the two-game road swing.

“I felt this team had the skill set to compete every night.”

Nelson owns the Braves, leading the season series 4-1 and outscoring Spokane 20-11.

Kimberley won the only meeting, 2-1 against Nelson.

The unbeaten streak has allowed the Leafs to climb to within three points of second-place in the Murdoch Division.

Even when the Leafs were losing, DiBella said the losses were all by a goal or two thanks to a Leaf shot hitting a defender’s leg while the opposition would score at the other end of the ice on a fluke bounce off the end boards.

Now the bounces are going the way of the Green and White.

However, DiBella looks to leadership displayed by some of the veterans as a key to the turnaround.

“There’s a silent confidence in the dressing room led by a player like Dale Howell, who is absolutely everything to this team right now,” DiBella explains. “He’s not only played well but he’s a great leader in the room.”

Howell leads the team in scoring with 17 goals and 14 assists, a point better than Leaf captain Sawyer Hunt.

Gorn solidifies the netminding position

The Leafs have gone through goalies faster than hockey sticks this season, but the coaching staff appears to have found its one-two punch in Billy Gorn and Devin Allen.

Since arriving in the Heritage City, all Gorn has done is win — undefeated in three starts.

Gorn’s 2.67 goals against average would be good enough for a top ten position in KIJHL leaders, but the Edmonton native needs to have played in at least five games.

“Billy has provided us we the experience we were looking for at that position,” DiBella said. “He’s come up with timely saves when the game is either tied or we’re up by a goal that has kept us in the game.”

Roster set at 23 players

The swinging of the dressing room doors prior to the December 1 roster deadline has the Leafs with 23 players currently on the roster.

DiBella said there are three players on the injury list with pesky forward Sam Weber slated to begin play by this weekend.

Still injured are defencemen Brenna Grocock and Dash Thompson.

Next NDCC date, New Year’s clash against Nitehawks

Nelson returns from its almost two-week break Friday, November 30 when the Leafs travel to Grand Forks to meet the Border Bruins.

Next home date is New Year’s Eve when the Leafs host Murdoch leading Beaver Valley Nitehawks at 2 p.m. in the NDCC Arena.

The game kicks off a 10-game home stand for the Leafs, which doesn’t play an away game until February 10 in Invermere against the Rockies.

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