first_imgWow, was that ever close.The Nelson Leafs waited until the final day of the regular season to clinch the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Murdoch Division title.Now the Leafs get fourth-place Spokane Braves in the first round of the Murdoch Division playoffs beginning Tuesday at the NDCC Arena.The Leafs match-up very well against the American-based Braves, winning seven of eight games played this season.However, three games went to overtime with Nelson capturing a pair in extra time.Nelson has out scored the Braves 31-18 in the season series, including a 6-2 trashing of Spokane in the final meeting between the two clubs January 31 in the Lilac City.Game one of the best-of-seven series goes Tuesday with Game two set for Wednesday.Puck drop is 7 p.m. both nights.The series then shifts to the Lilac City for games three and four, set for Friday and Saturday.If necessary, the remaining games set for March 3 in Nelson, March 4 in Spokane and March 5 in Nelson.Leafs without KIJHL scoring champ to start seriesNelson will be missing its top scorer Jamie Vlanich to begin the series said Leaf coach Frank Maida. Maida has the Trail native listed as day-to-day, but told The Nelson Daily Vlanich will definitely miss the opener of the series with an undisclosed injury.The loss of the team’s leading scorer puts a serious void in the offensive punch the Leafs can deliver.Vlanich, finishing the season as the KIJHL scoring champ with 35 goals and 62 assists for 97 points, missed the final two games of the regular season, including the thrilling 2-1 overtime decision Saturday in Fruitvale.Nelson rides Adam Maida as series starter in goalAnother key player in the Leafs drive to win the KIJHL title is also out of the lineup for the Murdoch playoff opener.Starting netminder Brad Rebagliati is on the shelf with a lower body injury.The Cranbrook native also missed the final two games of the season for Nelson.Starting in goal is Nelson’s Adam Maida, who was stellar during the division clincher Saturday.Backing up Maida is Kootenay Ice goalie Jason Mailhoit.Leafs can’t look past pesky BravesDespite dominating the season series against Spokane, Leafs coach Frank Maida is somewhat concerned with the opposition to start the Murdoch Division playoffs.“Spokane is a team that keeps hanging around so it’s important for us to come out ready to play Tuesday,” Maida said.“They’re a team that really turned things around after Christmas so we’ve got to have a strong start against them.”Spokane, led by Justin Bonanno and Kurtis Reading, is 9-4 since January 17.The run allowed the Braves to overtake the Grand Forks Border Bruins for the final playoff spot and come within a single point of third spot.last_img

Leafs hope Tuesday start of long, and successful, playoff run

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