The Castlegar Rebels faced the Nelson Leafs in Game 1 of their second playoff round on Tuesday, but after battling through the better part of five periods lost 1-0.
Though both teams created plenty of scoring opportunities, the Rebels were denied by Josh Williams and the Leafs by Curt Doyle, and the play lacked the frantic energy seen in the Rebels’ first playoff games against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
But the animosity commonly seen between the Rebels and Leafs flared up toward the end of the second.
With 2:19 left on the clock, Tanner Costa took two minutes for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct after pinning one of the Leafs to the ice and on the same play, Even Della Paoelera took two minutes for slashing.
But despite the five-on-three opportunity, the Leafs still couldn’t get the puck past Doyle.
The Rebels dominated in the latter half of the third, with strong shots on goal, but Williams kept them out.
There was a sense of déja vu as the two teams headed into overtime — much as they did when they faced each other in the first round of last year’s playoffs when Game 1 went into a fourth overtime period before the Leafs finally won the game.
That feeling intensified as they headed into a second OT.
Both teams were looking tired, but it was the Leafs who struggled to clear the puck from their zone early in the period. Still, despite a number of shots on goal, the Rebels couldn’t find their way past Williams.
As the period continued, the Leafs carried the puck into the Rebels’ zone, where Ryan Piva, assisted by Ryan Cooper and Sawyer Hunt, finally found his way around Doyle and won the game for the Leafs.
Parker Hickey, assistant general manager for the Rebels, said the Rebels wanted to come out as hard as they possibly could for Game 1 against the Leafs.
“Obviously that didn’t happen, but for us it’s big just to steal one of these games on the road, so they have home ice advantage right now, but as soon as we get one game of these two, home ice advantage comes back to us,” he said. “So hopefully we’ll come out harder tomorrow. I thought it was a little slow out there tonight on both sides.”
On the other side of the ice, Leafs defenseman Michael LeNoury was happy with the way his team played.
“We played the way we wanted to, that’s for sure. Definitely expected more than one goal on the board with both team’s offences. I found we countered their offence pretty strongly today,” he said.
Asked if the Rebels were tired after playing seven games in the first round, Hickey said, “They might have been. I don’t know, I was hoping the energy would overcome that, but I mean Nelson went seven games too, so we’re both in the same boat here. I expect to see a higher pace for tomorrow night.”
Hickey gave a lot of credit to the Rebels defensemen and to Doyle.
“But we’ve just got to take more shots and when we do get more shots we’ve got to crash on rebound a little harder than we did tonight,” he added.
Game 2 will be Wednesday at 7 p.m at the Nelson & District Community Centre.