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Leaf players earn special recognition on eve of start of KIJHL playoffs

Nelson goalie Frederick Larochelle earned one of the KIJHL Three Star Awards as the regular season concluded and teams now focus on playoffs, with Nelson hosting Beaver Valley Friday at 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena.

On the eve of the Leafs and Nitehawks rekindling their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff rivalry, beginning Friday with Game one of the Murdoch Division Semi Final at the NDCC Arena, two Nelson players received special recognition.

Leafs rearguard Tyson Lautard was selected the Murdoch Division Top Defenceman in year-end awards while netminder Frederick Larochelle earned one of the Three Star Awards.

Lautard, in his third season with the Leafs, finished the season with 29 points in 40 games — with two goals coming on the power-play and one a game winner.

The Midway, BC, product averaged 25:11 of ice time per game and saw an average of 3:40 a game on the power-play and 3:08 on the penalty kill.

He was a key part of the Leafs blueline allowing the ninth fewest goals against the league with 137 and tied them with Grand Forks for the best goal-differential at plus-13 in their division.

Larochelle earned the Three Star honor for goalies after picking up key wins for the Leafs against the Grand Forks Border Bruins and Beaver Valley Nitehawks to help secure his team second place in the Neil Murdoch Division.

In the two games, the native ofBrossard, Que., stopped 77 of 80 shots for a .963 SP and a 1.50 GAA.

Larochelle had a 34-save shutout performance against the Border Bruins and turned aside 43 of 46 shots against the Nitehawks.

The 6-1, 180-pound goalie has 12 wins in 23 games to go with a 2.73 GAA and a .913 SP. Larochelle established new career highs in SP and GAA this season.

Both Lautard and Larochelle will be in action as Nelson hosts Beaver Valley Friday and Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena. The series then shifts to Fruitvale Arena for Games three and four, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The other Three Star winners included Liam Fitzgerald of the Fernie Ghostriders as top forward and Owen Aura of Kamloops Storm as top defenceman.

KIJHL kicks into post-season play

The Leafs-Hawks best-of-seven series is one of eight KIJHL Semi Final playoff series.

In the Kootenay Conference, Murdoch Division winning Grand Forks plays host to Creston Valley Thunder Cats; Eddie Mountain champs Columbia Valley Rockies face Fernie Ghostriders and Kimberley Dynamiters battle Golden Rockets.

In the Okanagan, KIJHL overall regular season winner Princeton Posse meet Summerland Steam, defending KIJHL champion, Revelstoke Grizzlies take on 100 Mile House Wranglers, Osoyoos Coyotes host North Okanagan and Kamloops Storm tackle Sicamous Eagles.