The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League recently passed the quarter-mile mark on the 2021-22 season.
Emanuel Sequeira, Director of Communications for the KIJHL looks at some of the Neil Murdoch teams, including the Nelson Leafs, Castlegar Rebels, Grand Forks Border Bruins and Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
The Nelson Leafs saw its five-game winning streak end abruptly as division rival Castlegar doubled the Leafs 4-2 Wednesday in the Sunflower City.
The win avenged a 7-3 loss to the Leafs Saturday.
Nathan Dann, Griffen Ryden, Liam Dumelie and Justin Duguay each scored to lead the Rebels to the win.
Bryden Pow and Bryce Sookro answered for Nelson in a game the Leafs outshot the Rebels by a 38-19 margin.
Here is a capsule look at the four West Kootenay/Boundary teams in the Neil Murdoch Division, which is topped by Beaver Valley with a 8-4-1 record. The Nitehawks are two points in front of the Leafs at 7-4-0-1.
The Nelson Leafs have seven wins in 12 games to steadily climb near the top of the division.
“I thought against Castlegar on Saturday we had better execution. We have seen steady improvement from each game,” says Leafs assistant coach Adam DiBella. “We’re looking to improve on that every game.
“Our group and coaching staff are committed to the process,” continued DiBella. “It’s a long 42-game season. When we were below .500, five games ago, we weren’t panicking, and we’re not riding high right now.”
What stands out to the Leafs is the great improvement in players.
“We have a 17-year-old D-man (Bryce Sookro) leading our defence scoring in points. We have all these players coming in out of AA,” says DiBella.
Sookro, who is third in team scoring with 10 points in 12 games, came into camp viewed as a sixth or seventh defenceman. Now he is viewed as a No.1 or 2 defenceman every night.
“He’s consistent, he’s an effortless skater, he’s a big (6-1, 200 pounds) punishing D-man to play against,” adds DiBella. “He moves the puck well. When you add up all those skills, that’s a player that’s bound for better things next year.”
Nelson returns to action Saturday with a home game at the NDCC Arena against Grand Forks Border Bruins. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
The Castlegar Rebels have three wins in 11 games. After losing both games on the weekend, the last coming to Nelson, they rebounded to defeat the Leafs 4-2 on Wednesday.
“Lately I think our team has improved. We have been struggling to score goals, we’ve scored less than three goals a game,” says Head Coach and General Manager Arnie Caplan. “That has been challenging.”
Positives from the weekend was pushback to come back in games, which was great for Caplan to see. He also likes that they have been generating more shots.
“Our power-play has been clicking better, generating more goals,” he says.
Their power-play has scored 12 times on 47 chances, for a 25.5 percent efficiency rate.
Defenceman Liam Dumelie, acquired from Kamloops, has impressed Caplan and scored his first goal as a Rebel in his third game.
“He’s definitely proven to be one of our best defenceman right away,” says Caplan, who has also been happy with their goaltending.
Castlegar travels to Grand Forks to face the Border Bruins Friday before hosting Golden Rockets Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre.
Grand Forks Border Bruins
The Grand Forks Border Bruins remain winless after 10 games, their recent defeat coming Wednesday, 4-2 in Beaver Valley. The Border Bruins made some moves recently to acquire Matteus Reis from Kelowna and Ollie Morberg from Osoyoos.
Reis scored his first goal as a Border Bruin in his third game on Wednesday. Ray Warrack also scored in the loss to Beaver Valley and leads the team with four goals and 10 points.
Grand Forks returns to action Friday hosting Castlegar at 7 p.m. in the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena.
Beaver Valley Nitehawks
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks have eight wins in 13 games to sit first in their division.
After splitting their games last weekend, the Nitehawks defeated the Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-2 at home. The Nitehawks have won five of six games while leading after two, but have also been able to win twice in six games while trailing after two periods.
The Nitehawks host Golden Rockets Friday at the Beaver Valley before travelling to Castlegar Sunday to face the Rebels in a 2 p.m. afternoon tilt.