Leafs know Bruins will come out fighting
No one would blame the Nelson Leafs for looking past its first-round opponent as the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League kicks off playoffs beginning Friday at the NDCC Arena.
Nelson, finishing the season with the third-best record in the KIJHL, doubled Grand Forks Border Bruins in points as well as winning every game the teams played during the regular season.
However, a closer look reveals four of the games were decided by one goal — two in overtime — and two other games were two-goal wins by the Leafs.
So even though the Murdoch Division regular season champs are favoured, don’t expect the feisty Bruins to give the series away without a fight.
“. . . we’re just going to take each series one by one, game by game,” said Leaf Captain Sawyer Hunt on the eve of the opening tilt in the Murdoch Division Semi Final between Nelson and Grand Forks.
The series opens Friday and Saturday at the NDCC Arena. Puck drop is 7 p.m. both nights.
“We just need to show up for every game do what we’re capable of doing,” Hunt said. “If we do that, I think we’ll be successful.”
“It’s a long playoff run so you can’t look too far ahead it’s only the next game that matters,” he adds.
Both teams enter the series limping into playoffs.
The Bruins managed a single point in the final four games of the regular season, but that point, coming in a 4-3 loss to Spokane, was enough to lift Grand Forks into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Nelson, which clinched top spot in the Murdoch earlier in February, rested players during a pair of losses last weekend.
“All the guys on the team seem to be pretty excited about the upcoming playoffs . . . for lots of them it’s their first taste of seven-game series so it will be interesting to see how we respond,” Hunt said when asked about the mood in the Leafs dressing room.
Nelson has the edge on the Bruins in goal with the KI’s top netminder Josh Williams, expected to get the start in Friday’s opener.
Williams, who did not play last weekend, was recognized on the KIJHL Twitter account for posting the best goals against average as well as registering seven shutouts during the season — three more than the next best goalie.
Hunt, who led Nelson in scoring this season with 54 points, expects the Bruins to play a physical game when teams take to the ice Friday.
Grand Forks likes to use the body in an attempt to wear down their opponents.
However, Hunt, who is no stranger to a playoff run after helping Kimberley win the KIJHL title in 2015, doesn’t expect the Leafs to back down as Nelson also likes to play an aggressive, hard-hitting style of hockey.
“We just need to keep things simple against Grand Forks,” he said.
“They’re a pretty physical team but so are we so we just need to be hard on the body and get lots of shots on net and put in our chances.”
The series shifts to Grand Forks for Games three and four, Monday and Tuesday at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena. Game times are 7 p.m.
Gross misconduct means Leafs assistant gone for seven games
Information released by the KIJHL said the suspension handed down to Leaf assistant coach Sean Dooley following an incident at the end of the Nelson-Castlegar game February 16th, was the result of “two penalties in the last ten minutes of third period play.”
“Both penalties fall under Hockey Canada Rules section 9.2 Harassment of Official, Unsportsmanlike Conduct/Misconduct,” KIJHL Murdoch Vice president Andew Carr said in an email to The Nelson Daily.
“These penalties come with suspensions both for the infraction and the time at which the penalty was called.”
Originally, the Leafs said the suspension was for six games. That has been increased to seven after miscommunication between between the KIJHLand BC Hockey was corrected.
Dooley received a seven-game suspension for:
- Abuse of official – 2 games HC rule 9.2
- G.Misc in last 10 minutes – 1 game HC rule 4.6c
- Gross Misconduct – 3 games HC Rule 105.2
- G. Misc in last 10 minutes – 1 game HC Rule 4.6c
Dooley will miss the entire first round of the playoff series between Grand Forks and Nelson as well as the division final, should Nelson advance.
“The League Discipline Committee spends time on each transgression; both the circumstances as well as the accumulation,” Carr said.