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Leafs advance with thrilling Game Seven Playoff victory over Spokane

The Nelson Daily Sports
By The Nelson Daily Sports
March 7th, 2019

It may have taken seven games, but the Nelson Leafs overcame adversity — and two elimination games — to prove the Green and White were the better team.

Three second-period goals made the difference as Nelson skated to a 6-2 victory over Spokane Braves in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Playoff action Wednesday night at the NDCC Arena.

The win gives Nelson a 4-3 decision in the best-of-seven Murdoch Division Semi-Final Series.

Nelson now advances to the Murdoch Final beginning Saturday at the NDCC Arena against Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

However, before the Leafs were able to celebrate into the night, the team had to deal with many second-guessers in the crowd of more than 875 when Aaron Morris scored for Spokane 25 seconds into the second period.

After dealing with Nelson’s early-game push, and facing a 1-0 deficit, it was Spokane sucking the air out of the NDCC Arena when Bear Hughes scored a power play marker in the final minutes of the opening frame.

The crowd had barely returned to their seats from the first-period intermission when Morris slid a shot past Caiden Kreitz in the Leaf nets, sending shockwaves through the rafters and bringing up nightmares of Game five when Nelson failed to show, allowing Spokane to escape with a victory.

However, a hooking penalty to Braves’ Mark Oestreich seemed give the home side a bit of hope.

Mitchell Lavoie started the comeback, snapping a quick shot past Ben Waslaski in the Spokane nets.

Nelson killed off a two-man penalty before Reid Wilson gave the Leafs the lead, breaking in on Waslaski and ripping a snap shot to the top corner.

Late in the frame, Nelson began piling on insurance goals as Captain Jack Karran finished off the three-goal period by converting his own rebound, roofing another shot past Waslaski.

Shawn Campbell, with his second power play goal of the game, and Karran, into an empty net sealed the victory, and a date against rival Beaver Valley in the Murdoch Final beginning Saturday at 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena.

Nelson outshot Spokane 37-27 in the game, including a 14-6 advantage in the second period.

Nelson earned the win on special teams, killing off all but one Spokane power play while going three-for-five with the man advantage.

PLAYOFF NOTES: A well-rested Beaver Valley Nitehawks team, which swept through Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-0, will be the next opponent for Nelson, beginning Saturday. Game two goes Sunday, at 7 p.m., again at the NDCC Arena. . . .Spokane is going to have to wait another year to break its winless streak in the playoffs. The Braves haven’t advanced to the Murdoch Division Final since 2010. . . . Jack Karran and Shawn Campbell each finished the game with three points. . . . Josh Stypka sat out the game due to injury while Michael LeNoury was on the bench for Nelson, but did not see any action. . . . Shawn Campbell earned Game Star for Nelson while Bear Hughes was tabbed as Spokane’s best player. . . . Spokane again did not dress a back up goalie. Campbell Arnold, who is property of Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, sat out again after starting the first four games of the series. Arnold was the Spokane’s second round (28th overall) pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. He was added as an affilate player for the Chiefs in December. . . . The second round of the KIJHL playoffs begins tonight in Kimberley when Fernie visits the Dynamiters. Summerland-Kelowna and 100 Mile House-Revelstoke begin Friday in Kelowa and Revelstoke.

Spokane goalie Ben Waslaski can only watch as Leafs celebrate the opening goal by Shawn Campbell during Game seven of the KIJHL Murdoch Semi Final Wednesday at the NDCC Arena. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily

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