For the second consecutive year the Murdoch Division Regular Season Champs are having a difficult time getting out of the first round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Playoffs.
Last year the Grand Forks Border Bruins pushed the Nelson Leafs to a seventh game before the Green and White prevailed. This season it's the Spokane Braves making life a disaster.
The Braves defended home ice, sweeping the weekend series to even the best-of-seven Murdoch Division Semi-final series at 2-2.
Saturday night in the Lilac City, Jed Butler and Derek Humphreys each scored twice to lead the Braves to a 7-4 victory. Friday, the Braves turned to netminder Campbell Arnold, who stopped all 39 shots in a 2-0 shutout of the Leafs in the Washington State City.
Game five of the series goes Monday at 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena with the series shifting back to Spokane Tuesday. If necessary, a Game seven is set for Wednesday back in Nelson.
Braves outlast Leafs to even series
Three special teams’ goals in the second period snapped a 3-3 tie powering the Braves to the victory Saturday.
After falling behind 3-1 in the first period, Nelson rallied to tie the game with a power play goal by Tulsen Fawcett four minutes into the second period.
However, instead of taking advantage of the power play received minutes later, Nelson allowed a shorthanded tally by Humphreys to give the home side a 4-3 advantage.
Power play markers by Butler and Bear Hughes added insult to injury, allowing the Braves to build a 6-3 lead after 40 minutes. Jack Karran, with his second of the game, cut the margin to a pair of goals.
But Humphreys scored into the empty net to secure the win, pulling the Braves even in the series.
Kaleb Comishin also scored for the Leafs. Marcel Epkey and Kade Levins replied for the Braves.
Spokane outshot the Leafs 51-41. Arnold outdueled starter Caiden Kreitz and backup Hunter Young in the Leaf nets to register the win in goal. Spokane scored three times on the power play while Nelson converted twice.
Arnold steals victory against Leafs
It’s an age-old adage during playoffs that goaltending can make the difference.
Friday, Campbell Arnold proved to be the deciding factor, stopping all 39 shots to shutout the Leafs.
The only goal the Braves would need was scored by Marcel Epkey on the power play in the second period. Bear Hughes added an empty net marker as insurance in the third period.
Nelson netminder Caiden Kreitz was busy as Spokane fired 56 shots at the Leaf net. Both Arnold and Kreitz earned Game Star honours.
SERIES NOTES: Nelson had Kootenay Ice Major Midget affiliate player Noah Quinn in the lineup for Friday’s game. . . .Leafs have been playing without veteran defenceman Michael LeNoury for most of the series. LeNoury suffered an upper body injury during Game one of the series. LeNoury joins David Sanchez and Logan Wullum on the Nelson injury list. . . . Leaf Captain Jack Karran leads Nelson in scoring with eight points, including four goals. . . . Defending KIJHL Champion Kimberley Dynamiters, Kelowna Chiefs, Revelstoke Grizzlies and Fernie Ghostriders clinched their respective Division Semi Final Series Saturday, winning four straight. Beaver Valley Nitehawks lead Grand Forks Border Bruins 3-0 with Game four Sunday in the Boundary City. Summerland Steam and 100 Mile House Wranglers lead 3-1.