The Castlegar Rebels opened their regular season against the Nelson Leafs on Friday, Sept. 13 on a high note, raising the KIJHL Champions and Kootenay Conference Champions banners to the rafters in front of loud and proud Castlegar home fans.
The Rebels had just seven goals during the pre-season versus 23 goals against, and came out on the losing end in all four exhibition games played. The worst of the losses came at the hands of the Leafs, who hammered the Rebs for 14 goals in games earlier in the week.
Unfortunately, that trend continued in the first period Friday, with Nelson putting the boots hard to starting goaltender Nate Rabbit.
Nelson forward Travis Wellman, a former Rebel and speedy as ever, got two on his old teammates at 12:22 and 14:44. The first of Wellman’s goal also came with an assist to another former Castlegar player, Jamie Vlanich.
Though rookie forward #15-Ed Lindsey tried to rally the troops with a breakaway goal of his own at 10:52, the first period rally was cut short when Leafs rookie blueliner Brandon Sookro pushed one home with just two minutes to play.
In the second, the Rebels bounced back thanks in part to numerous power play opportunities. The period saw five minors, all of which went against the Leafs. The Rebels got back into the game at 10:16 courtesy of #27-Quinn Klimchuk, who took a feed from Darren Medeiros and put a massive slap-shot past Leafs net-minder Tyler Moffat.
The game turned chippy late in the second period with a number of whistles, setting up a scintillating third. The Rebels found another gear in the middle frame and pulled ahead on the shot clock 24 – 22 after 40 minutes.
Under three minutes into the third, Robson Cramer put the Leafs up by two and they never looked back. Wellman secured his early season hat-trick at 10:45 on the power play and the final score was 5 – 2.
The Rebels next home play the Grand Forks Border Bruins Saturday, Sept. 14 (7:30 p.m.) and wrap up a three-game home stretch against the Kimberley Dynamiters on Sunday, Sept. 15 (2 p.m.).