The Nelson Leafs lost a lot more than a 6-5 match to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Wednesday night at the Nelson and District Rec Complex.
The KIJHL suspended Nelson coach and GM Dave McLellan for the remainder of the season and stripped eight points from the Leafs’ record for using an ineligible player over nine games prior to Jan. 24. The disciplinary action drops the Leafs to fourth place in the Neil Murdoch division, 20 points behind the front-running Hawks with 65 points.
According to Bill Sheard, vice-president of the Murdoch Division, the Leafs’ failure to register a player came with grievous results.
“They have to forfeit the points they won for using a player that wasn’t on the Hockey Canada registry,” Sheard told the Nelson Star.
The Leafs were penalized for dressing forward Michael Rand, who was acquired in a trade for future considerations with the Grand Forks Border Bruins in December, but neglected tow put him on the active roster.
KIJHL president Bill Olhausen told the Nelson Daily that the player was not carded on the Hockey Canada Registry, and because it was Nelson’s second infraction this season, the league applied the appropriate penalty.
“Earlier this season Nelson was guilty of using an affiliate player not on the HCR,” said Olhausen.
All players, newly acquired and affiliates, must be added to the active roster (the HCR) and approved by the KIJHL before they can dress in a league match, otherwise they are deemed ineligible.
“I feel terrible about it,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “I know this happened to us and more than anything else, you feel like you’ve let all the kids down, and the organization down . . . it’s just being, for lack of a better word, absent minded.”
In 2008, Jones was suspended for three games and the Nitehawks stripped of seven points for failing to put defenceman Keon Vick on the Hockey Canada registry.
“The thing is, it is your job, and you have to make sure things are looked after . . . we lost a lot of points and a lot of momentum and it was a tough thing to overcome,” said Jones. “I didn’t like it, and if you ask me I think the penalty is a little harsh.”
Leafs’ GM and head coach Dave McLellan would not comment on the league ruling.
In Wednesday night’s match up between the Leafs and the Hawks, Fruitvale native Sam Swanson scored twice including what proved to be the winning goal on a short-handed effort early in the third period to give B.V. its 30th victory of the season.
“We actually played pretty well,” said Jones. “I don’t think it was Drake’s (Poirier) best game but he was good enough to win and made key saves when we needed them.”
The Hawks play the remainder of their seven regular season games against Neil Murdoch division rivals so every match is important to the division standings.
“There is going to be some jockeying for sure as these (division) games are now four-point swings,” said B.V. Assistant coach Kevin Limbert. “We’re just looking to play our best hockey here.”
The Nitehawks and Leafs emerged from the first period tied 2-2 despite an overwhelming 21-5 edge in shots for the Hawks.
Rayce Miller got the Leafs on the board first, but Walker Sidoni would reply taking a Jacob Boyczuk and Kyle Hope set up and wiring it by goalie Joey Karrer at 17:38. The Leafs’ Drew Carter would make it 2-1 just 34 seconds later, but after Nelson forward Tyler Fyfe took a double-minor, the Hawks Mitch Foyle tied it at 10:29 on a pass from Reid Anderson.
The Leafs took a 3-2 lead four minutes into the second period on a power play goal from Darnel St. Pierre. Hawks forward Spencer McLean would tie it at 14:39, scoring his 14th goal of the season and extending his point-streak to five games, but Nelson would re-take the lead for the last time when Miller scored his second of the night beating Hawks’ goalie Poirier on another power play to make it 4-3 at 6:05.
Hawks defenceman Lyle Frank would tie it at 4:34, and Swanson netted the go-ahead goal with 1:35 remaining in the middle frame.
With Hawks defenceman Brody Jennings in the box to start the third, Taylor Stafford would get the puck to Swanson for the short-handed marker 69 seconds into the third period to give B.V. a 6-4 lead.
The Leafs’ Dylan Williamson would net his first goal and third point of the night at 12:42 but the Nitehawks would stifle a late threat when the Leafs pulled Karrer for the extra attacker with 1:52 remaining in regulation.
The Nitehawks outshot the Leafs 43-23 and were 1-for-5 on the power play while Nelson was 2-for-3. Anderson, Swanson, and Frank each had two points for the Hawks.
With just seven games to play, the Nitehawks will likely face the Leafs in the opening round of the division playoffs, rather than the Spokane Braves who held down fourth spot before the disciplinary action.
“All the teams in our division will be tough whoever we play,” said Jones. “The only difference who we play is just in terms of driving . . . if we go to Spokane travel factors into it as well.”
As for the team’s health, Andrew Miller and Jace Weegar remain out, with the rest of the team a little bruised and battered but able to play.
“We’re finally getting back healthier,” said Limbert. “I mean after the break we had a nasty virus going through the team. It seemed like at any given time there was two or three guys on their death bed, so we are finally getting our health back.”
The Nitehawks host the Braves tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Hawks Nest.