No one can say it wasn’t a memorable series.
The playoff battle between the Castlegar Rebels and the Nelson Leafs started with a game that came within about 12 minutes of setting a new record for the longest game in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s (KIJHL) history, and with few exceptions, that level of play continued throughout the series.
But sadly for the Rebels, their efforts fell short and they lost the series to the Leafs 4-2 after losing game six 1-0 on Friday.
“It’s a series that everyone is going to remember,” Rebels head coach Bill Rotheisler said following the game. “It was a great series. And I don’t want to take anything away from Nelson. Nelson certainly surprised us. They played hard. The protected the front of their net. For the first couple of games, we were getting shots, but it was mostly from the outside and they did a great job, like I said before, of boxing our guys out and keeping guys to the outside, and playing us heavy.”
The Rebels were 6-2 against the Leafs in the regular season, and though the Rebels knew they were a capable team, they were ultimately surprised by the way the Leafs played in the playoffs.
“We knew they have a lot of good players. They’ve had their moments in the year where they’ve strung together some good wins against some good teams, so we knew they certainly had the potential to do that but were we surprised with how good they were defensively? Yes, absolutely,” said Rotheisler.
Reflecting on his hopes for next season, he said, “We have a lot of young guys and we hope that 1) our job in the off-season is to try to move on as many as we can, but 2) guys that are going to be back are going be another year of pedigree.”
Now that the Rebels are out of the playoffs, Rotheisler hopes to get a jump on scouting out some new players for next year.
From the first period it was clear that the Rebels had taken game four’s defeat to heart and were stepping it up. Despite the fact that the period ended with the Leafs counting the only goal, the Rebels at least managed 15 shots — as many shots as they landed during the entirety of game four.
Everett Hicks tied things up late into the second period, but the Leafs’ Dale Howell responded with 1:01 left on the clock.
The Rebels fought to tie things up in the third and got their chance when the Leafs’ Jack Karran took a game misconduct and additional five minute penalty for kneeing. Logan Styler, assisted by Daniel Petten and Hicks, snuck one past the Leafs’ goalie Dave Allen on the power play, tying the game.
Unfortunately the opportunity came at a cost. Daneel Lategan was the one kneed and had to be led off the ice to the Rebels dressing room. Though coach Bill Rotheisler was worried he’d be out for the rest of the series, Lategan ended up being OK to play for game six.
The Rebels fought to take the lead until the end of the third, but the game went into overtime and the Leafs found the net first, winning the game 3-2.
The first two periods ended in a scoreless draw, and it looked as if the Rebels and Leafs might be headed into overtime yet again, but at 12:17 in the third, the Leafs’ Kyle Rosolowski found the net, and the Rebels scrambled to tie the game right to the final whistle.
With less than two minutes left to play, Rebels goalie Chandler Billinghurst was pulled from the net for an extra attacker, but with 53 seconds left Everett Hicks was sent to the penalty box for goaltender interference, and Billinghurst was sent back in.
Less than 20 seconds later he was pulled again as the Leafs’ Sawyer Hunt took a penalty for slashing, but the man advantage wasn’t enough to help the Rebels find their way past Leafs’ goalie Devin Allen — as they did in the final seconds of game one — and the Leafs won 1-0.