The Castlegar Rebels got through a busy weekend with flying colours, winning four straight games and clinching their first division title since 1996.
They needed 50 shots, but the Rebels found a way to solve 16-year-old Jeremy Muosseau and the Kimberley Dynamiters Friday night.
Anthony DeLong’s go-ahead power-play goal midway through the second period lifted Castlegar out of a 2-2 tie as they fired their way to a 5-3 victory at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
DeLong enjoyed a multi-point night, as did defenceman Tyler Jones and forward Ryan Aynsley.
Muosseau, a 16-year-old callup making only his fourth appearance of the season for his hometown team, stymied Rebel shooters all evening long, and was named the game’s first star.
The Rebels returned home Saturday to post a 4-0 shutout over the Princeton Posse.
Princeton, who entered play with 21 fewer victories than the Rebels this season, proved a difficult challenge despite having leading scorer Spencer Kristensen on the sidelines.
DeLong provided the only scoring through the game’s first two periods, tucking a backhand shot underneath Posse goaltender Brett Patchett 3:37 into the second period.
Erik Wentzel, Stuart Walton and Spencer Brodt provided insurance markers in short order late in the third period, Brodt’s coming on a breakaway after a pretty pass from rookie Diego Bartlett sent him in alone.
Alex Ross made 27 saves to garner his third shut-out of the KIJHL season, in the process improving his league-leading goals-against average to a stingy 1.92.
In what amounted to a spirited playoff preview, Castlegar took their seventh victory of the season from the Spokane Braves with a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon at Eagles Ice-A-Rena, clinching the division in the process.
Castlegar opened the scoring just four minutes into the game thanks to Curtis Pereverzoff, but fell behind by the intermission after the Braves tallied twice in 1:56.
A.J. King pounced on a loose puck in front of Rebels goaltender Buckley to tie the score, then agitator Tanner Slarks snapped a wrist shot into the top corner of the net to give the home side a 2-1 advantage.
The Rebels took control in the second stanza.
Bartlett tied the score on a nifty cross-ice pass from captain Taylor Anderson five-and-a-half minutes into the middle frame.
The scoreline would stay the same until Aynsley snuck a wrister past Spokane netminder Garrett Barr for his 30th goal of the season.
Jones’ seeing-eye point shot fooled Barr 1:29 after Aynsley put Castlegar ahead, rounding out the scoring.
After the game head coach Steve Junker downplayed the division title.
“I don’t think that was a specific goal,” he noted, “having a successful season, a winning team, and carrying that into the playoffs would be considered a success for me personally.”
Even though they were down four regular players and playing their fourth game in five days, Castlegar’s KIJHL team rallied from an early deficit to post a comprehensive 5-1 win over Beaver Valley Tuesday at the Complex.
After South Slocan’s Ryon Sookro opened the scoring by lifting a backhand past Rebels goaltender Alex Ross, the home side exploded for four goals in a 4:23 timespan.
Anderson tied the score with a persistent effort in front of the net, then moments later Bartlett converted a two-on-one pass from Brodt to give the home side a 2-1 lead. Jones and Anderson would then score 19 seconds apart to give the Rebels a 4-1 advantage after 20 minutes.
DeLong, who Tuesday was named the Rebels’ player of the month for January, rounded out the scoring late in the second period, powering a solo effort past Beaver Valley goalie Zach Perehudoff for his 30th goal of the season.
Ross made 23 saves in goal for the Rebels, while Perehudoff stopped 30 of 35 Rebel shots.
The Rebels dressed only five regular defenceman Tuesday, but alternate captain Darren Tarasoff said the extra ice-time was a bonus.
“It gave the guys an opportunity to step up,” Tarasoff said, “we had an AP [Joren Johnson] come up and he played a very good game.”
The 1996 Rebels, coached by former NHL defenceman Pat Price, were the last local club to win a KIJHL title when they defeated the Sicamous Eagles in the final.
They advanced to the Cyclone Taylor Cup, BC’s Junior B championship, which was won by the Pacific International Junior League’s Ridge Meadows Flames.
Castlegar is now only two points shy of the Fernie Ghostriders for the top seed in the Kootenay Conference.
They’ll be back in action Friday in Nelson when they open up a home-and-home series against the Leafs.
Chris Wahl is a news reporter at Mountain FM who’s covering the Rebels for the Castlegar News this season.
He’s also the play-by-play voice of the Rebels webcasts on KIJHL.ca. For more on the Rebels, check out
Chris’ blog at: off-the-wahl.blogspot.com