By Bruce Fuhr,
The Nelson Daily Sports
Believe it or not, for as bad a start the Nelson Leafs experienced the club is only four points out of second in the Neil Murdoch standings and eight behind division leading Castlegar Rebels.
And now, thanks to a quirk in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League schedule, the Leafs have played fewer games than every other team in the Murdoch Division.
Nelson, idle since September 29th, gets a chance to make a comeback when the team plays three games in three days, starting tonight in Fruitvale against a team higher in the standings — the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“I thought we started the season not in as good as shape as other teams so we spent the past week doing some dry land training and working on lots of skill development,” said Leaf coach Chris Shaw when asked about the mini-training camp one month into the season. “We adopted the lunch pail mentality and I feel it’s starting to pay off and will go a long way to making us a better team.”
First up is a team the Leafs is Beaver Valley, a divisional rival who doubled Nelson 6-3 in the first meeting between the two clubs at the NDCC Arena.
Saturday Nelson plays host to the 2-4 Golden Rockets at 7 p.m. before concluding the Thanksgiving weekend with a 1 p.m. contest Sunday against 4-7 Princeton Posse.
“An 0-4 start is not what we wanted but it’s still early in the season and if we have a good weekend we can move right up the standings and prove to the league this will be a competitive hockey team,” explained Shaw, assuming his role behind the bench as head coach after serving a three-game suspension.
The Leafs defence will be bolstered by the return of rugged rearguard Tyler Parfeniuk. The Kelowna product has been out of the lineup with an injury since game one of the season.
However, while Parfeniuk resumes play, the news is not as good for winger Cody Abbey. Shaw said the medical staff is taking a cautious approach to make sure Abbey’s injury does not get any worse.
Shaw said Marcus Beesley gets the start in goal tonight of the Leafs in Fruitvale. However, tonight’s backup Darren Hogg should see action in one of the two home games.
LEAGUE NOTES: Castlegar winger Ryan Aynsley has been voted the player of the month for the Kootenay Conference. The Kelowna product is tied for the league lead in scoring with Thierry Martine of Osoyoos, each with 20 points. Aynsley shot up the scoring ladder with a six-point game last month against Grand Forks. Brandon Formosa of the Sicamous Eagles earned the honour in the Okanagan Conference. . . .The Nitehawks will be without the services of Tyler Collins and Bryan Hinchcliffe. The KIJHL handed the players three and four game suspensions, respectively for fighting and misconduct penalties. Cale Wright of Fernie was given three games for a match penalty while three Revelstoke Grizzlies’ players — Derek Grimm (1), Cody Larsen (3) and Braeden Monk (1) were also disciplined by the league.