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 game, 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-for-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.
Nelson will get a shot at revenge Saturday night when they visit the Complex in the final regular-season meeting between the two sides.