Let the KIJHL Playoffs Begin
The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s second season officially kicks off Friday on eight fronts as 16 teams begin the final push to dethrone the Beaver Valley Nitehawks as champs.
The Nelson Leafs lost to meaningless games in the standings, dropping a 4-1 decision Friday in Castlegar to the Rebels and losing 3-2 in overtime Saturday in Fruitvale to the Nitehawks.
The final weekend games saw Leaf coaching staff rest a handful of players in preparation of the start of the Murdoch Division Semi Final series Friday against the Grand Forks Border Bruins.
Netminder Josh Williams is the lone player to dress but not see action during the weekend. Caiden Kreitz got the start in both weekend games.
Also missing were captain Sawyer Hunt, Jackson Zimmerman, Jack Karran and defenceman Zach Morey.
Michael Bladon played Friday in Castlegar but was called up to dress for West Kelowna of the BC Hockey League Saturday.
Nelson, finishing the season in top spot of the Murdoch with a 33-9-2-0-3 record, now meets Grand Forks in the first round of the best-of-seven series beginning Friday at the NDCC Arena.
Game two of the series is Saturday — both games with a 7 p.m. puck drop.
The series then shifts to Grand Forks for games three and four.
The Bruins narrowly clinched the final playoff spot with a 4-3 loss Friday against Spokane.
The Braves were the hottest team in the Murdoch during the past two weeks, missing out on the playoffs by a single point.
In the other Murdoch Semi Final, Castlegar opens its series against Beaver Valley Friday in the Sunflower City.
In the Eddie Mountain Division of the Kootenay Conference, regular season champ Kimberley hosts Fernie. The Dynamiters, winners of the overall KIJHL regular season title, enter the playoffs riding a nine-game winning streak.
In the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference, Kamloops visits Revelstoke and Osoyoos hosts Princeton.
The KIJHL Champ represents the league at the four-team Cyclone Taylor Cup April 12-15 in Richmond.
Leafs Assistant Coach Suspended
Nelson Leafs will be without Sean Dooley for at least the first series of the playoffs after the assistant coach was suspended for an incident with an official during Friday’s game in Castlegar.
Dooley was hit with a six-game suspension after receiving a gross misconduct at the final buzzer of the 4-1 loss.
Hunt, Williams achieve individual goals
Missing the final two games did not jeopardize Sawyer Hunt’s lead in team scoring as the Nelson Minor Hockey grad finished on top with 54 points.
Ryan Cooper, who played during the weekend, was next with 41 points while Ryan Pvia finished third with 37.
Cooper was the top goal scorer for Nelson with 22 goals.
Leaf netminder Josh Williams finished on top of the KIJHL goalie parade with a 1.86 goal against average.
In 28 games this season, Williams, posting a .937 save average, won 20 times.
Levi Mitchell of Creston finished second with Tanner Douglas of Castlegar third.