The Castlegar Rebels advanced to the second round of the KIJHL playoffs after a 3 – 2 win in game five of their series with the Spokane Braves Thursday, Mar. 28 in front of their home crowd.
As was the case in game three of the series, the Braves seemed like a different team than the one the Rebels faced the first two games.
Through the first period, the defensive strategy of the Braves kept paying dividends even though they were ultimately out-shot in the game 48 – 24.
The Rebels appeared to be first on the board with about a minute to play in the first period but the goal was disallowed as the net had come off.
“Very lucky to have the goal disallowed,” said Rebels fan Steve Mota. “Their own goalie knocked the net off.” Mota was wearing a game-worn Rebels jersey and enjoying the game with his two-year-old son Jayden.
At 13:47 of the second the Rebels officially took the lead when captain Erik Alden snapped one in, assisted by Stuart Walton and Diego Bartlett.
The Braves valiantly pulled ahead when Sean Collins and Alex Peltram both scored on power plays to give Spokane a 2 – 1 lead heading into the third.
Alden got his second goal of the game just 2:14 into the third period to even the score at two. Stuart Walton and Dylan Bowerman assisted on the play.
The whistle was essentially put away during the third, until Castlegar forward Stuart Walton was handed a five minute major and a game misconduct for boarding with 8:16 to play in regulation. The crowd did it’s best to cheer the Rebels through a tough stretch, before Timothy Schmidt’s tripping minor about two and a half minutes later evened things out, giving the Rebels enough breathing room to hang on in regulation.
The winning goal was scored by Quinn Klimchuk (unassisted) at 17:05 of the second overtime period. Spokane goaltender Matt Zenzola, who had let in just three goals through 72:55 of play, collapsed to the ice after the loss.
Rebel goaltender Jordan Gluck, on the other hand, was swarmed by his teammates and takes four playoff wins and a save percentage of .964 into the next round.
In other KIJHL action, the Beaver Valley Nighthawks beat the Nelson Leafs 7 – 6 to pull ahead in the other Neil Murdoch division series and now lead the series 3 – 2. The winner there will go on to face a well-rested Rebels team Monday, Mar. 4
Rebels coach Steve Junker was grateful for the win and doesn’t seem to be taking anything for granted moving forward.
“Obviously, [I’m] ecstatic about getting the win,” Junker said. “It was a hard fought battle and Spokane gave us everything we could handle.”
Asked if he was surprised with two very tight games against the Braves, Junker gave a definitive no.
“I was more surprised by the first two games and the scores of those,” he said. “I really knew those were going to make it that much harder. There’s a tendency to fall in love with yourself after wins like that and obviously heading to Spokane we knew it was going to be tough and obviously it was. We breathed life into them and it just continued.”
Junker added he doesn’t care about facing either Beaver Valley or Nelson in the next round.
“Absolutely not. We’ve had battles against both teams and I hope they tire themselves out a little bit and whoever comes out on top is a little bit beat up and sore. These couple of days will be a nice break for us to rest some bodies and get prepared.”
The first star of the game was awarded to Quinn Klimchuk, second was Braves goalie Matt Zenzola and third was Rebel captain, Erik Alden.