The Castlegar Rebels were but one of 16 teams on the ice on a busy night in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League on Saturday, Oct. 12 as they battled hard for a 3-2 victory against Neil Murdoch Division rivals, the Nelson Leafs in double-overtime.
Saturday was the second regular season matchup for the two teams, with the Leafs winning the first game in Castlegar on Sep. 13 by a score of 5 – 2. Nelson has had an impressive early season run, coming into Saturday’s tilt with an unblemished 7-0-1 record.
True to recent form, Nelson opened the scoring at 5:03 of the first on the power play as the Rebels were killing off a high-sticking call against Diego Bartlett. Former Rebel Travis Wellman fed another former Rebel, Jamie Vlanich, who picked up his seventh goal and 21st point of the season on the play. Just 10 seconds after the reset, Linden Horswill snagged the Leafs second of the night on a feed from Carson Willans and Nolan Percival.
Castlegar’s starting goaltender, Nate Rabbit, looked solid after that, staring down a further 16 shots in the opening period. The Rebels almost picked up a goal to pull within one when defenceman Cole Arcuri mangled a pass on a line change, but were unable to connect before the Leafs recovered.
Bartlett redeemed himself after sitting in the box on Nelson’s first goal by getting one of his own at 2:39. Jeremy McNeil and Derek Georgopoulos picked up assists on the play.
The second period saw plenty of end-to-end action but neither side could find the net. Referee McDonell let the two teams play despite a couple of high-profile slashes, most notably one from the Rebels Tyler Bryant on the Leafs’ JJ Beitel, that drew a collective gasp from the crowd. The move seemed to be a retaliatory action against Beitel, as Bryant was seen without a glove, clutching his arm moments before.
In the third, Bartlett knotted things at two apiece with 8:24 left on the clock, banging in a puck for his second of the night that Nelson starter Tyler Moffat was unable to corral. Assists went to Chase Reddin and Hunter Jenerou on the tying goal.
A five-minute overtime settled nothing despite numerous good opportunities from both teams and a final five-minute overtime, with three skaters a side, brought the energy level in the Castlegar Complex to a crescendo.
With 1:24 to play in the three-on-three overtime period, Derek Georgopoulos took a feed from defenceman Seth Schmidt and the Cranbrook native made no mistake in burying the winner behind Moffat. The goal was Georgopoulos’ fifth of the season and could not have come at a better time.
The Rebels have now won three straight games and will have a very short rest before taking on the Leafs again Sunday, Oct. 13 in Nelson at the Nelson Community Complex. Puck drop is 2:30 p.m.