Houdini-like Leafs pull out another win to lead Kootenay Conference Final
The Houdini-like Nelson Leafs pulled another rabbit out of their hat Monday night at the NDCC Arena to grab a 2-1 lead in the Kootenay Conference Final.
Two goals in eight seconds, combined with stellar netminding from Game Star Josh Williams, sparked the Leafs to a thrilling 4-3 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Playoff victory over the Kimberley Dynamiters.
Nelson now leads the best-of-seven series with Game four Tuesday back at the NDCC Arena.
“We just wanted this game,” said Leaf forward Jack Karran from outside the boisterous home dressing room.
Twice Nelson held one-goal leads to start the game.
Logan Wullum tipped in a Dash Thompson shot with Nelson on the power play to open the scoring midway through the first period.
Chase Gedney tied the game up for Kimberley, also on the power play. Gedney’s shot found the top corner with Williams scrambling to get into position after losing his goal stick behind the Nelson net.
However, before the period ended, Justin Podgorenko’s shot went off the glove of Kimberley goalie Cody Campbell to regain the lead for Nelson in the final seconds of the period.
In the second, Kimberley took the play to Nelson as the speed of the Nitros forced numerous turnovers by the Leafs to allow the visitors to tie the game.
James Farmer evened the score at 2-2 when the Kimberley forward got past Leaf's Thompson before picking the top corner behind Williams.
Then came the penalty parade to the box for Nelson.
Thompson started trip to the box, crosschecking Farmer after he scored the game-tying marker.
Nelson managed to kill off that penalty, as well as a period of time playing two men short when Keenan Crossman and Podgorenko were penalized.
“We just found a way to kill of those penalties,” Karran explained, after Nelson was outshot 17-2 in the second.
“That allowed us to battle back in the third and get those two goals.”
Kimberley coach Derek Stuart didn’t think not scoring with the two-man advantage was a turning point in the game.
“It would definitely have been nice to score on that 5-on-3," Stuart said. "But we just have to tighten up our discipline and we’ll be all right.”
Kimberley thought they took control of the game, scoring the go-ahead goal less than three minutes into the third following an end-to-end rush by defenceman Mason Palaga.
Palaga raced over the Nelson blucline before taking a shot Williams mishandled leaving a juicy rebound for Kimberley forward Nicholas Ketola to drill into the net.
However, the game turned back into Nelson’s favour when Matt Davies was whistled a tripping penalty in the neutral zone.
Leafs tied the game on the power play — the third time in the game — when Ryan Cooper ripped a shot past Campbell.
Then Nelson got the winner eight seconds later when Jaiden LaPorte somehow managed to get the puck past Campbell.
Nelson then turned the game over to Williams, who was unbeatable in the final 17 minutes of the game secure the win.
(Josh) has just been tremendous for us,” Karran said. “He made some amazing saves and his play really helped us tonight win this game.”
As for Kimberley, which has held a shot advantage in all three games — including a 40-26 margin in Game three?
“Just play hard again tomorrow, and minus the selfish penalties,” Stuart explained.
“We shot ourselves in the foot with the penalties we took. We have to be more disciplined and that to me was the difference in the game.”
GAME NOTES: Before the game, Leafs honoured its “Best Fan” during an on-ice ceremony. Neveah Mullin was presented with a Leaf jersey as well as a Team Photo by assistant captain Zach Morey. Mullin then dropped the puck in the ceremonial faceoff. . . .Fans in the north end of the ice tried unsuccessfully all night to start the Wave around the arena . . . Nelson was once again minus a core group of regulars as Jackson Zimmermann, Ethan Beattie and David Sanchez all did not play. The trio were joined by Leaf captain Sawyer Hunt, who was sitting out the first of a two-game suspension for match penalty during the first period of Saturday’s Game two in Kimberley. . . . Kimberley has outshot Nelson by a 113-75 during the first three games of the series. . . .Someone at the game went home a few dollars richer after claiming the 50-50 prize of $675. . . .The game attracted 843 fans. . . . In the Okanagan Shuswap Conference Final, Osoyoos and Revelstoke are tied 1-1 with Game three Tuesday in the South Okanagan.