The Nelson Leafs drove out of Fruitvale with a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, feeling confident and understandably cocky after their 5-0 drubbing of B.V. on Tuesday at the Hawks Nest.
In a penalty filled match up, Joe Davidson scored the game winner for the Leafs on the power play 5:42 into the first period. The Nelson native banged in a rebound on a point shot from Lane Goodwin for a 1-0 lead.
The rivalry between the Nitehawks and Leafs is as intense as any two teams who have battled against each other on and off the ice for almost 40 years in the KIJHL.
However, the traditionally close, fast, and hard-fought games has taken a turn for the worse for the Nitehawks, who have yet to score in the series, with Nelson winning 6-0 in Game 1 followed by the 5-0 victory on Tuesday.
“Nelson has played extremely well,” said B.V. head coach Terry Jones. “Their special teams execution has been better than ours, and their best players have been amazing, especially Violette. We have to try to make some adjustments, as we have struggled hard in all areas of our game.”
Leafs forward Aiden Jenner made it 2-0 when he took a swing at a bouncing puck from a sharp angle and connected, blasting it over the shoulder of Nitehawks goalie Hunter Young at 11:19 of the opening frame.
With Nelson on another power play, Shawn Campbell took a feed from Reid Wilson in the slot and fired it glove side for a 3-0 Leafs lead at 7:30.
Nelson kept the momentum going from Game 1 and dominated play in the first period, outshooting Beaver Valley 18-5.
The Nitehawks looked to have scored their first goal of the series after a determined forecheck by Lucas Anselmo knocked the Leafs d-man off the puck. Phil Lessard jumped on the loose puck and fed a wide-open John Usselman in front. As the Leafs goalie Anderson Violette came out to square himself to the Hawks forward, he violently pushed the post off its mooring just as the Saskatoon native buried the centering pass. The official waved off the goal, as the hometown fans voiced their displeasure.
Moments later, Violette came out to play the puck, and collided with Nitehawks forward Nolan Corrado. Again, the goalie went down like he’d been shot, and Corrado received a major penalty and a game.
Things escalated from there. After Jenner notched his second of the night to put the Leafs up 4-0, the Nitehawks assistant coach was ejected and the Hawks given a bench minor, while three players were sent off for various infractions.
The bad-blood reached a boiling point when HawksUsselman took his frustrations out on a Nelson player, delivering haymakers, while two different Leafs players jumped into the fray. When the dust settled, Usselman was given a five minute fighting major, along with two minutes for instigating and two minutes for the aggressor, while Nelson enjoyed a nine-minute power play.
The Leafs own instigator, Keenan Crossman took advantage of the lengthy power play, and rounded out the scoring, sniping a shot past Young at 16:40 of the third. Violette stopped 32 shots for his second straight shutout, while Young faced 36. In total, 93 minutes of penalties were handed out. Nelson went 3-for-9 on the power play, while B.V. was 0-for-7.
“For the first two games its been all Nelson,” added Jones. “And now, we have to find some urgency in our competitive level to make it a series.”
Nelson hosts Game 3 and 4 on Thursday and Friday at the Nelson Civic Centre with the puck drop at 7 p.m.
The series enters must-win territory for the Nitehawks if they hope to return to the Beaver Valley Arena on Sunday for a possible Game 5, with the puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.