The Rebels did their part, but will have to wait another day to clinch their first division title since 1996.
Castlegar’s KIJHL entry sent 181 fans home happy by shutting out the Princeton Posse 4-0 Saturday night, but the second-place Beaver Valley Nitehawks remain mathematically in the race for the Neil Murdoch division crown after they defeated Nelson 3-2.
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.
Castlegar’s Anthony 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.
Castlegar’s leading scorer Mike Wiest played sparingly in the final half of the game after being checked by a Posse forward while attempting a shot.
The 20-year-old from Enchant, Alta., made it to the bench after the play under his own power, but did not see the ice in the third period.
Castlegar’s last division title was just one step toward the franchise’s 3rd KIJHL championship, a triumph that preceded two years in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League before the club returned to Junior B in 1998.
A victory Sunday afternoon in Spokane would clinch the top seed in the Neil Murdoch division and set up a first-round playoff series against the Braves, which would begin Feb. 14 at the Complex.
Castlegar’s busy schedule continues with a visit from Beaver Valley Tuesday night.