For two teams playing out the final few games before the 2011 KIJHL playoffs, the Castlegar Rebels and Nelson Leafs showed plenty of playoff-like intensity.
Erik Wentzel put home his 26th goal of the season on a mid-third period power-play as the Rebels escaped the NDCC Arena with a 4-3 victory Friday night.
The line of Wentzel, Ryan Aynsley and Spencer Brodt were magic for Castlegar, combining for eight points.
Brodt started things 10:30 into the first period, rifling a one-timer past Leafs goaltender Marcus Beesley for his 10th goal of the season.
The lead was short-lived, though, as Nelson’s Jeff Hodgkinson took advantage of an over-zealous Rebel defence, beating Montrose’s Alex Ross to level the score at 17:14.
But just 40 seconds later, Aynsley, who earlier in the day announced he’d verbally committed to Northern Michigan University, snapped home a wrister to give the visitors a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes.
Stuart Walton would double the lead in the second period before Dallon Stoddart, on what the Rebels believed was a high-stick, brought Nelson back to within a goal 6:27 into the third.
Things got interesting shortly after Wentzel put Castlegar ahead.
Ross, after making a save, was toppled by a Leaf forward and taken out of the play. To the disdain of the Rebels bench, the officiating crew allowed the game to continue, resulting in an easy goal for Nelson’s E.J. Moir.
After a lengthy scrum that included a water bottle being lobbed toward the crease from Castlegar’s bench, the goal was allowed to stand, resulting in a wild scene that saw players and glass-climbing fans alike hurling insults at the striped trio tasked with officiating the game.
Nelson’s anemic power-play would prove to let them down, however.
The home side went 0/8 while a man (or two) up, including a late penalty to Rebels captain Taylor Anderson that could well have produced a game-tying goal.
And after a night that left many in the Queen City shaking their heads in disbelief, Saturday’s return engagement packed just as much punch.
But despite falling behind three times in front of 257 faithful at the Complex, the Castlegar Rebels found a way to reach the 40-win plateau with a 5-3 victory over Nelson.
Nelson opened the scoring 11:26 into the game on a power-play when Braeden Hikichi’s point shot found its way through traffic to the back of the net.
After Arthur Andrews equalized four minutes later, the Leafs grabbed a 2-1 advantage when Dahl redirected another shot from the point past a distracted Cole Buckley.
The Rebels came out with a bang in the second period, however.
Tyler Robinson chipped a shot past Beesley 58 seconds into the middle frame, then after Nelson took a 3-2 lead, Aynsley hammered a shot from the right circle past the Nelson netminder to even the score.
Just 37 seconds after Aynsley struck paydirt, Wentzel scored his second game-winning goal in as many nights.
Already without defensemen Mike Wiest, Tyler Jones, Ryan Reid and forward Jamie Vlanich, the Rebels lost sniper Anthony DeLong midway through the second period after he fought Nelson’s Joel Stewart behind the Leafs net.
Nelson could have used Stewart’s scoring punch all weekend, as both he and fellow overager Dustin Johnson (who left late in the second period with an apparent shoulder injury) were held off the scoresheet in both games.
The Rebels wrap up the regular season with a home-and-home set against Beaver Valley tomorrow night at the Complex, and Saturday in Fruitvale.