The Nelson Leafs will look to build on what has already been an impressive October when the club host a pair of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League games this weekend at the NDCC Arena.
Nelson, entering the weekend riding a five-game winning streak, welcomes West Kootenay rival Castlegar Rebels Friday before hosting Golden Rockets Saturday. Both games have a puck drop at 7 p.m.
“The biggest thing in our turnaround is getting a timely save when we’ve needed it,” said Leafs assistant coach Adam DiBella when asked about the October streak. “Strong goaltending has allowed us to open up our game and play with higher pace.”
Solid play between the pipes began when management made the blockbuster move to trade away local product Curt Doyle to Osoyoos while at the same time making a deal to acquire Anderson Violette.
All Violette has done is win five straight games and climb into second spot in KIJHL goalie stats with a sparkling 1.39 goals against average.
“Dealing anybody is difficult,” DiBella confessed. “Telling Curt was undoubtedly the most difficult thing I have done in my coaching career.”
DiBella said Violette has stabilized a fragile Leaf defence that for some reason had lost faith in their play.
“Anderson has brought a calming influence to our team, creating confidence in the players that any mistake they make will not end up in our net,” DiBella explained. “He’s fit into the room seamlessly and I look forward to seeing him develop his game.”
Nelson currently sits tied for second spot with Spokane Braves in the Murdoch Division with a 5-3-0-0-3 record.
Castlegar, entering the weekend at 4-6-0-0-1, trails Nelson by four points in the Murdoch Division. Golden, fourth in the Eddie Mountain Division, has a record of 5-4-0-0 after nine games.
Here comes Captain David Sanchez
After 11 games into the season, Leaf fans will finally get to see team captain David Sanchez in action.
The Alberta native has been nagged by a lower body injury.
DiBella said Sanchez has worked exceptionally hard in his recovery and is excited to start playing again.
DiBella said defenceman Adam Diotte is also expected to be back in the lineup.
No so for forward Keenan Crossman defenceman Ryan Neilsen-Webb, both out for the weekend while defencemen Logan Macdonald and Kaleb Comishin are both game-time decisions.
DiBella said Leaf back goalie Austin Madge is slated to see some action this weekend.
Nelson is trying to defeat an Eddie Mountain Division team for the first time this season after losing to Kimberley, Creston and Fernie in September.