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KIJHL playoffs begin, Leafs-Border Bruins meet in Murdoch semi final

Lone Sheep Publishing
By Lone Sheep Publishing
February 22nd, 2024

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League kicks in to playoff mode Friday with a full slate of games on the schedule.

In the Neil Murdoch Division, two teams finishing the season on fire tangle in the Boundary City as Nelson Leafs face Grand Forks Border Bruins.

Game two goes Saturday at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena with the series shifting back to the Heritage City Monday and Tuesday, for Games three and four.

Nelson finished 10 points behind the Bruins, but most of that deficit can be blamed on a horrendous start to the season by the Leafs.

After opening the season with two straight wins, Nelson won twice in 10 games to fall into the bottom of the Murdoch Division.

However, the Leafs responded to overtake Castlegar Rebels for third place in the division with a 7-2-1 record in the final 10 games of the season — identical record of the Bruins.

Grand Forks wins season series

The Border Bruins took advantage of the Leafs poor start to churn out four consecutive wins over Nelson in the first half of the season — outscoring the Leafs 25-13.

However, since December, Nelson won two straight over Grand Forks — once at home and one victory coming in Grand  Forks — with both wins coming by limiting the Bruins to three goals.

Regular-season stats favour Bruins

Nelson is led by top scorer Crae Dawson, who finished the season on a six-game consecutive points streak.

The Osoyoos native finished with 14 points, including nine goals for a season total of 51 points.

For the Bruins, which held a 17-goal advantage over Nelson in total offence and allowed 14 less goals, the trio of Leiv Astill, JP Desabrais and Tyler Burker finished the regular season with 49, 47, 46 points, respectively.

Leafs solid in goal

Nelson might have a slight edge between the pipes heading into the best-of-seven series as Denmark native Karl Soneff appears to be rounding into form after begin traded to the Leafs last month.

Soneff was named one of the KIJHL Three Stars for the final week of the regular season.

The product of Copenhagen helped the Leafs earn wins over the Castlegar Rebels (5-2) and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (6-1), stopping 53 of 56 shots combined for a .946 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average.

In nine games with the Leafs, Soneff went 6-2-0 with a 2.44 GAA and a .912 SP.

Luke and Max Chakrabarti of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats rounded out the Three Stars.

Nitehawks dominate Murdoch Regular Season Awards

Beaver Valley Nitehawks, which cruised to the Murdoch Division title, won four of the seven end of the season individual awards in the Murdoch Division.

Nelson Minor Hockey grad Kaleb Percival was named MVP and Top Defenceman while Connor Stojan earned Top Goaltender and skipper Terry Jones Top Coach.

Nelson Leafs forward Kane Kennedy broke up the Hawks awards by capturing the Most Sportsmanlike Award.

Kenndy, a product of Airdrie, Alta., spent 14 minutes in the penalty box, and played 15:03 a game.

He played most of the the time, 54 per cent, in the offensive zone, and won an average of 11 puck battles per game – 47 per cent.

The 19-year-old had 30 points in 41 games, with 13 of his points coming on the man-advantage. Two of his 15 goals were winners.

Zach Brumann of Spokane Braves won Top Scorer and Rookie of the Year in the Murdoch Division.

Rounding out KIJHL Playoff First Round

Beaver Valley hosts Castlegar Rebels in the first game of the Murdoch Division Semi Final.

Other KIJHL playoff contests include, Creston Valley Thunder Cats facing Fernie Ghostriders; Kimberley Dynamiters meeting Columbia Valley Rockies; Kamloops Storm hosting Sicamous Eagles; Princeton Posse up against Kelowna Chiefs; Osoyoos Coyotes and North Okanagan Knights and Chase Heat travelling to play Revestoke Grizzlies.

Categories: Sports

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