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The Nelson Leafs blew a 3-0 lead to Beaver Valley Nitehawks ending their season in a heartbreaker of a game played Friday night on home ice.
Up by three, the Nitehawks scored four unanswered goals in the third ending the Leafs playoff run.
“We had our backs against the wall and I thought we played real good for the first half of the game,” said Leafs coach Frank Maida. “We had momentum and we took it to them and then it shifted with the penalties in the second.”
The Leafs opened up strong with the first goal early in the game. Dallon Stoddart scored from Aaron Dunlap and JJ Beitel. Energized, the home team poured on the pressure. With just over three minutes left in the first, fireworks started to fly and a huge scrum put the referees to work. Beaver Valley determined the aggressors; the Leafs went on the power play. With help from Dunlap and Beitel, Colton Schell poked away at the rebound and scored making it 2-0 with 1:09 left in the period.
After one the Leafs were losing the territorial and shot battle (14-10) but were ahead where it mattered thanks to net minder Marcus Beesley, in his first playoff start. He would go on to take second star honours in the game.
Early in the second the Leafs get the two-man advantage and JJ Beitel scores off a point shot that fools Nitehawk goalie Zach Perehudoff. Bryce Nielsen and Schell assisted making it 3-0 with 18:10 left on the clock.
Beaver Valley would have their own chance at a 5 on 3 and thanks to special teams and a strong showing by Beesley, they wouldn’t capitalize. In fact, the Leafs had two short-handed breakaways making for exciting mid-period play.
Shots were 29 to 18 for the Nitehawks but the Leafs went to the dressing room up 3-0 after the second.
Beaver Valley stormed back in the third period putting themselves on the board with 15 minutes left in the period. The point shot by Connor Brown-Maloski broke the shut out. At 9:43 left in the period, the Nitehawks Ryan Edwards would score again on the power play making it 3-2 and with 8 minutes left in the game, they tied the score. Keanan Patershuk got the goal.
First star of the game Dallas Calvin would score the game winner for Beaver Valley with 6:27 left in the game.
“This is a tough way to lose. I am proud of our boys. I thought they battled but they weren’t given a good opportunity to win today,” said Maida.
The win sends the Hawks into round two of the playoffs where they’ll face off against Castlegar Rebels as the Neil Murdoch division title quest continues. Maida expects a tough series unsure of who will come out on top.
“It’s a tight division. The three best teams are in this division and it’s a good rivalry, good hockey,” said Maida.