Nelson increases division lead with win over Fernie

Fernie Ghostriders
Fernie Ghostriders' Anthony Gilbert takes a stick to the head while battling for the puck against the Nelson Leafs' Rayce Miller (left)and Austin Lindsay (right). The Leafs won the game 5-1.
— image credit: Kevin Mills Photo

The Nelson Leafs won their second straight game of the weekend as they downed the Fernie Ghostriders 5-1 Saturday night at the Nelson and District Community Complex (NDCC).

Five different Leafs scored in the contest.

On Friday, the Leafs downed the Spokane Rebels 6-2 in Spokane.

The victory on Saturday night gives the Leafs a four-point cushion over the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on top of the Neil Murdoch Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

Nelson has 73 points while the second place Nitehawks have 69. Beaver Valley does have two games in hand.

Saturday's contest featured some impressive action, especially in the second period.

After playing to a 1-1 tie, thanks to goals by the Leafs' Austin Lindsay and Fernie's Travis Thomsen, Nelson took over the second frame outscoring their opponents 3-0.

Goal scoreres for the Leafs included Aaron Dunlap, Travis Wellman and Darnel St. Pierre who fired a rocket past Fernie netminder Phoenix Logan-Hill.

"It was a great job by the forwards turning up ice quick. I saw an opportunity, they didn't really have a backchecker in position," explained St. Pierre.

"I just capitalized. I came up, Rayce (Miller) made a great pass and I just found my spot and I buried it."

The Leafs looked like a different team in the middle frame, hemming Fernie in its own zone for much of the period.

"In the first intermission, I thought there were some things we could all improve on. We had a pretty average period and we wanted to come out hard and really outwork them," said St. Pierre.

He believes that Nelson is one of the quicker teams in the league, saying when the squad gets going, many teams can't keep up with them.

Fernie attempted to shake things up in the third, by putting backup goalie Austin Wells between the pipes.

It didn't help.

The Leafs scored the only goal of the third period, a tally by Alec Wilkinson, to make the final 5-1.

Brad Rebagliati picked up another win in the Nelson nets, stopping 24 of 25 shots he faced.

After the game, Leafs' forward Jamie Vlanich said it was a good win for the home squad.

"It was a good night for the team, everybody played well. We rolled out the four lines pretty well," said Vlanich.

While he didn't score on the night, Vlanich added a couple of assists to increases his lead in the league scoring race. He now has 32 goals and 58 assists for a total of 90 points.

But when asked about his talents, Vlanich said he doesn't care about the scoring race.

"That's not important at all. I give a lot of credit to my linemates. I couldn't do it without them and my teammates too.  I don't really care about personal awards."

He said the second period scoring outburst was just an example of hard work.

"I guess we were just hungry tonight. We got on lots of loose pucks and put them in the back of the net," said Vlanich.

He said the squad now needs to focus on getting ready for the post season, but doesn't have to work on anything specific.

"Just staying in shape, getting everyone healthy and try to get rolling for playoffs."

Nelson now has five days off before they head into a huge home and home series.

The Leafs play at home on Friday, February 7 against the second place Beaver Valley squad. Puck drops at the NDCC at 7 p.m.

The next day, the Leafs travel to Fruitvale to face Beaver Valley again.

The series will likely determine which squad wins the division.

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