The Nelson Leafs have taken three out of a possible four points to open the new hockey season after defeating the Castlegar Rebels 5-3 on Saturday night at the Nelson and District Community Complex.
The Leafs’ win follows a 3-3 double overtime tie with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks the previous evening.
The Rebels, on the other hand, are now 0-1 after losing their only game of the season.
Things looked good early for the Rebels, who took a 3-1 lead into the late stages of the second period. However Nelson scored four unanswered goals to win the contest.
Jeremy McNeil opened the scoring for the Rebels in the first and Yannis Soukas made it 2-0 for the visitors before the end of the first frame.
In the second, Nelson began a small comeback after Nolan Percival cut the lead in half to narrow the gap to 2-1. However, the Rebels regained the two goal lead thanks to a marker by Aaron Petter.
Again the Leafs fought back, making the score 3-2 late in the second thanks to a goal by Aaron Dunlap.
The third was all Nelson as the Leafs scored three more to secure the win 5-3. Nelson’s third period goals were scored by Matt MacDonald, Darnel St. Pierre and Robson Cramer.
Brett Soles earned the victory in the Nelson net while Patrick Zubick took the loss between the pipes for the Rebels.
After the game, Castlegar head coach Jesse Dorrans said the team let its emotions get the best of them.
“We took some bad penalties and unfortunately, they ended up in the back of the net.”
He also noted the momentum of the game began to shift after Nelson’s second goal.
“The game of hockey is about momentum. Nelson started to take back big chunks of momentum and we were unable to reach back and grab some of it to our advantage., said Dorrans.
The loss was the Rebels’ first game of the season and the coach believes better results lie ahead.
“We’re coming together off the ice, on the ice. We only have two practices under our belt so it’s going to be a process.”
In the home dressing room, Nelson coach David McLellan was praising his players for showing resilience and battling back to win the game. But there is also room for improvement.
“Some of the goals they scored were our mistakes which we can correct.”
Nelson appeared to outplay the Rebels in the early going, but couldn’t put the puck in the net. McLellan credited the Castlegar goalie for his strong play, but a few adjustments seemed to blow the game open in the third.
“We started to work from behind the net on him a bit in the third to change it and we made a few adjustments in our fore check as well. It created the right type of turnover for us.”
With only two games played so far this season, the coach said he’s happy with many parts of the game, especially the players’ work ethic. However there are still things to work on, conditioning being one of the most important.
“Better defensive awareness would help too,” said McLellan.
Leafs forward Nolan Percival said the players are starting to buy into the new coaching system. He also said the players talked about how to come back from the deficit in the second intermission.
“I think we came into the room and the boys got together and talked about it, figured out what we needed to do and we got it done.”
Percival had a good night, scoring a goal and an assist.
“It’s great, but the team won, that’s what counts.”