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'It all starts with our returning group, our leadership group' — Nelson Leafs Preview

Leafs Assistant Coach Adam Dibella the coaching staff worked hard during the summer to recruit good people, who will fit into the team culture.

The Nelson Leafs opened the 2021-22 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season this past weekend by taking three of four points during a pair of home games at the NDCC Arena.

The Leafs lost the home opener Friday to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks 6-5 in shootout before stopping the visiting Fernie Ghostriders 4-1 Saturday.

KIJHL Director of Communications Emanuel Sequeira took a Coles Notes look at the 2021-22 Nelson Leafs.

Before COVID-19 shutdown the KIJHL season in 2020, the Green and White has won three straight games. 

Key Returnees: 

“Everybody contributes to the team,” says Leafs Assistant Coach Adam Dibella, adding that they have 15 returnees.

Simon Nemethy was third in team scoring with two goals and six points, while Joe Davidson, folllowing a solid summer tryout camp with the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League had three points in three games. Bennett Anklewich, who just returned from the Portage Terriers (MJHL) junior camp, had three assists in two games. Tyler Pisiak, who had two points in three games, was named captain and is part of a leadership group with Lane Goodwin, Bryden Pow and Nemethy.

Rookies to Watch: 

D- Bryce Sookro, F- Ethan Machan, Marko Pavlovic

Bryce Sookro – Nelson Minor Hockey U18 – “He’s a really big (six-foot-two), mobile, two-way defenceman,” says DiBella. “He’s really impressed us with his skating, hockey IQ and makes a great outlet pass. At 17, he’s just now learning how to use his size.”

Ethan Machan - SAHA U18 Prep -”He is a big kid at six-foot-three, 200 pounds. He’s a two-way centre, who really excels at cycling the puck in a net cycle or low cycle. He’s got great ability around the net and a long reach. He scored two goals in his two exhibition games. We’re hoping to see that kind of goal scoring knack continue in the regular season.”

Marko Pavlovic – Okanagan Hockey Academy U18 Prep – “He’s six-foot-seven, 205 pounds, as an 18-year-old. He’s a house too and his growth is exponential. We see a ton of raw potential and he’s a really great skater. By Christmas, we’re hoping that he’s going to be a really strong contributor to our team.”

Season outlook:

“It all starts with our returning group, our leadership group. We’re confident in them. We really worked hard this summer to bring in players, first and foremost bring in good people, who will fit into the culture,” says DiBella. “Now it’s just time to go out there and prove it on the ice that we brought in players who are coachable and they want to get better. Hopefully by Christmas and January, we will see a marked improvement in lots of our new players and continue our winning culture that we have established here.”

Coach’s quote:

 “I really liked our commitment to details. Everybody really bought into the small details that you need to win games. I just look forward to playing games and get through a season. I want to see our players develop and grow off the ice as well.” 

Players Advancing:

Matt Byrne – Anna Maria Division III

Ethan McLaughlin – Adrian College (ACHA Division 1)

Hunter Floris – Iowa State (ACHA Division 1)

Cole Wyatt – UNLV (ACHA Division 1)

Nelson takes to the road this weekend with a pair of games against the Eddie Mountain teams Fernie, Friday and Kimberley Dynamiters Saturday.

Nelson home game for the Leafs is Saturday, October 16 at the NDCC Arena against the Golden Rockets.