Leafs heating up at right time of KIJHL season
After limping out of the starting gates and occupying a spot near the bottom of the Neil Murdoch standings, the Nelson Leafs have climbed to within a point of third place following a 4-1 character-building victory over the Sicamous Eagles in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Saturday at the NDCC Arena.
The win improved Nelson’s season record to 19-16-2-1 — 6-3-1-0 in the last 10 games — one point behind third-place Castlegar Rebels.
The Rebels are 3-6-1-0 in the past 10.
Second-period goals by Ethan Hamilton and Quinn Ramsay snapped a 1-1 tie sparking the Leafs past the Doug Birks Division leading Eagles.
Lane Kennedy and Camron Wickham also scored for the Leafs, which out shot the Eagles 29-25 in the contest.
Nelson opened the weekend with a heartbreaking 6-5 overtime loss Friday in Creston to the Thunder Cats.
After falling behind 3-0 in the first period and trailing 5-2 after 40 minutes, Nelson rallied to score three times in the third period to force overtime.
Ramsay led the Leafs with a pair of markers, with singles going to Jackson MacIntosh, Kieran Christianson and Hamilton.
Nikolai Morrison spoiled the comeback scoring at 25 seconds of overtime for the home Thunder Cats.
Slow start to season
Nelson opened the KIJHL season in September with two wins in three attempts — the lone loss coming to Kimberley.
However, the Leafs struggled in October, going 3-6 in the month to fall out of contention for the lead in the Murdoch race.
Since Halloween, the Leafs have managed to win 15 out of 25 games close in on the Rebels for third spot in the division.
Nelson solidified its goaltending with the acquisition of Karl Soneff from the LeRonge Ice Wolves of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League at the January 10 roster deadline.
Earlier in the day, Nelson sent Frederick Larochelle to the Chilliwack Jets of the Pacific Junior Hockey League in return for future considerations.
Leafs face Murdoch rivals to conclude regular season
Nelson has six games remaining on the 2023-24 season, beginning Friday in Spokane against the Braves.
The Leafs host Fernie Saturday at the NDCC Arena before concluding the regular season against Murdoch Division teams, including a pair of games against the Rebels in Castlegar February 9 and Nelson February 16.
Currently Beaver Valley holds a seven-point lead over second-place Grand Forks.
Castlegar trails the Border Bruins by eight points.