After a night that left many in the Queen City shaking their heads in disbelief, Saturday’s return engagement between the Castlegar Rebels and Nelson Leafs 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 Marcus 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 Leafs goaltender Marcus Beesley 58 seconds into the middle frame, then after Nelson took a 3-2 lead, leading scorer Ryan Aynsley hammered a shot from the right circle past the Nelson netminder to even the score.
Just 37 seconds after Aynsley struck paydirt, Rebel overager Erik Wentzel gave the team a lead they would not relinquish.
It was the Kelowna product’s second game-winning goal in as many nights against the Leafs.
Already without defencemen 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 of the home-and-home series.
Castlegar’s 40th win ties a franchise record set in 2001.
The Rebels will have three chances to set a new mark beginning Wednesday in Grand Forks.
The team will then prepare for the playoffs with a home-and-home series with Beaver Valley, beginning Friday night at the Complex.