The Nelson Leafs have avoided elimnation thanks to a 4-3 victory over the Nitehawks on Thursday night before a large crowd at the Nelson and District Community Complex.
It looked bad for the Leafs in the early going as Beaver Valley jumped out to a 2-0 lead. However, the Leafs began to battle back in the second.
Goals by Adam Hodge and two by Carson Willans helped the Nelson squad enter the third period in a 3-3 tie.
The Leafs knew they had to win the contest and pressured Beaver Valley in the third. All the hard work paid off when a harmless looking shot by Jamie Vlanich, trickled by the Nitehawks goaltender to give the Leafs a 4-3 lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the game.
Leafs netminder Patrick Zubick, a recent pick up from the Castlegar Rebels roster, shut the door the rest of the way, making some spectacular saves, especially in the final few seconds.
“You’ve got to make every save you can. Try and make all the hard ones and all the easy ones. When you make a save like that, in the last 30 seconds or so, it’s really big,” said Zubick.
He said no one is more surprised than him that he is still playing hockey, but injuries to both of Nelson’s starting goalies forced the move.
“I was fully expecting to be getting back to school and going hard on my studies. But I’m incredibly grateful to have a second chance here to beat these guys.”
The Nitehawks knocked out Zubick’s former team, the Castlgar Rebels, in the first round of the playoff.
“You definitely want to get them back for that. I don’t want to be on the other side of the handshake again, like I was before,” said Zubick.
The Leafs leading scorer in the regular season, Vlanich, is glad to be back in the line up after missing the first round of the playoffs with an injury.
His game winning goal was a strange one, that just trickled into the net.
“I don’t know, I didn’t see it. I just hear the crowd,” said Vlanich about the goal.
He said the squad has to take things one period at a time and not worry about facing elimination.
“Just play every shift like it’s your last and hope for the best.”
The Leafs now travel to Fruitvale to play Beaver Valley again in game six of the playoff series. Nelson has to win to force a game seven at home.
The Leafs have had difficulty winning at the Nitehawks rink.
“We just have to out work them. Seems whenever we take the play to them, we’re winning.”
Asked if the locker room was down, or nervous, Vlanich said neither was correct.
“We’re just pissed off. We want to win. We’ve got two more to go.”