With the regular season winding down, the Castlegar Rebels are now one point back of the Grand Forks Border Bruins in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the KIJHL’s Neil Murdoch Division.
The Rebels lost all three of their weekend matches, while Grand Forks beat Sicamous to allow the Bruins to pull ahead of Castlegar in the league standings.
Alek Erichuk scored twice as the Nelson Leafs beat Castlegar 4-2 on Saturday, a night after blowing out the Rebels 7-2.
Cortez Favot and Griffen Ryden had goals for the Rebels. Ethan Lawczynski, who was on the hook for all seven goals Friday, returned to the Rebels’ net and made 29 saves.
Early in Saturday’s game he made a steely slide across his crease to rob Jaden Shumilak. Five minutes later it was Lawczynski again as he denied Brandon Costa’s breakaway chance.
Lawczynski’s effort opened the door for Castlegar to grab the lead.
Nelson’s Adam Diotte was sent to the penalty box for slashing, and only moments into the power play Favot jumped on a rebound for a 1-0 Rebels advantage.
A slew-foot penalty to Castlegar’s Ben Anderson set up the Leafs for a four-minute man advantage, which they carried into the intermission.
That penalty finally paid off 28 seconds into the second period. Erichuk fired a shot from the blue-line that trickled past Lawczynski to tie the game.
Shumilak gave Nelson the lead only 23 seconds later when he was well placed to backhand a rebound off a Joe Davidson shot.
Erichuk returned to the scoresheet by virtue of being the last Leaf to touch the puck on a messy goal. A scramble in front of Lawczynski led to two Rebels stuck in their own net and, somehow, the puck as well.
The game geared down considerably in the third period until a terrific effort by Castlegar’s Josh Wiens.
The Rebels were being pressed by Nelson’s power-play unit when Wiens collected the puck, burst up the ice and behind goaltender Anderson Violette. He found a trailing Ryden, who had an open net to shoot on and cut Nelson’s lead to one.
Castlegar pulled Lawczynski with 1:13 left, but Tyler Pisiak calmly tapped an easy shot into the empty net to guarantee Nelson’s win.
Sunday’s game was a wild one, with Sicamous blasting Castlegar 11-3 despite the Rebels holding a 56-28 edge in shots.
After the first period Castlegar was down 4-2 even though they outshot the Eagles 28-10. It was 6-3 Sicamous after two, and the Eagles padded their lead in the third.
Ryden finished with a goal and an assist for Castlegar while Wiens and Keaghan Holub had the team’s other goals.
Lawczynski, playing a third night in a row, surrendered all 11 goals.
Grand Forks (13-26-0-3) is now one point ahead of Castlegar (11-25-0-6). Each team has seven games left on the regular season schedule, including one head-to-head match in Grand Forks on Valentine’s Day.
Castlegar’s next games are Friday at home against Fernie at 7 p.m., Sunday at home to Spokane at 2 p.m., and Tuesday in Nelson.
— With files from Tyler Harper, Nelson Star