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Leafs double Braves 4-2 to exorcise demons

Joel Stewart, battling for the puck, once again had the last laugh on his former Spokane mates Friday at the NDCC Arena. — Bruce Fuhr photo

By Bruce Fuhr
The Nelson Daily Sports


What’s the quickest way to exorcise demons that no doubt danced through the minds of the Nelson Leafs following that 9-0 drubbing Wednesday at the hands of those pesky Castlegar Rebels?

The first thing is to quickly forget the nightmares ever occurred. The second go out and win the next game.

The Nelson Leafs accomplish the feat, and more, getting a pair of two-point performances from Joel Stewart and Colton Schell to double the Spokane Braves 4-2 in the traditional Kootenay International Junior Hockey League New Year’s Eve contest Friday at the NDCC Arena.

The win, snapping a three-game losing streak, enabled Nelson to increase its lead to four points over Spokane in the race for third spot in the Murdoch Division. Spokane has also played two more games than Nelson.

“(Wednesday’s loss) is in the past so it’s something we don’t talk about a lot any more in the locker room . . . we just focus on the next game,’’ said Leaf winger, and former Spokane Brave, Joel Stewart.

“Today we just figured out what we had to do and improved on the things that went wrong against Castlegar,” Stewart added. “We worked hard and were a little more physical against them.”

Stewart once again picked up his game against his former mates. The 6’1”, 190-pound winger, who scored the winner in overtime the last time the two teams met November 26 in Nelson, opened the scoring 12 minutes into the contest.

Mitch Fowler tied the game before the first period ended.

The teams exchanged goals with Schell scoring for the Braves and Guisseppe Dippolito replying for Spokane. But Mr. Everything to the Leafs Gavin Currie gave Nelson the lead for good with a power play goal late in the middle frame.

Brennan Foreman added an insurance marker in the third.

“I’ve got a feeling it’s probably the coach telling a couple players to a little harder on me because they know what I can do so they’re trying to hold me back,” Stewart, named the game’s first star, replied when asked about playing against his former mates.

“I don’t mind it because it kind of gets me into the game . . . it gets me pumped.”

Darren Hogg, with a bounce-back game in goal, made 26 saves to record his 10th win of the season against five losses.

The two teams get right back at it Sunday in the Lilac City. Next home game for Nelson, playing the next four games on the road, is Wednesday, January 12 against Grand Forks.

LEAF BANTER: The win gives Nelson a 4-2 advantage in the season series against the Braves. Three of the wins have come at home. . . .Connor McLaughlin is at his home in Arizona rehabbing his injured shoulder. His status remains in limbo. . . .Prior to the upcoming January 10 B.C. Hockey roster deadline, Leaf coach and GM Chris Shaw acquired sniper Dustin Johnson to add some much-needed offence to the Nelson lineup. The 6’2”, 200-pound forward scored 67 points last season with Merritt Centennials of the BCHL. Johnson, with 25 points in 28 games, was with Victoria after being traded from Merritt in October. . . . The Leafs welcomed back defenceman Raymond Reimer to the lineup. Reimer had been out since game six of the season with a knee injury. Also in the lineup was defenceman Blake Arcuri back after serving a suspension during the pre-Christmas game against Beaver Valley. . . .Nelson finished December with a 3-4 record.

sports@thenelsondaily.com