The Castlegar Rebels took game one of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League championship series, beating the North Okanagan Knights 2 – 1 on Tuesday, March 26 in Castlegar.
If the first period of play was an indication of things to come, this may be a hard hitting, evenly played tilt. Shots were 8 – 7 for the Castlegar Rebels but the only one-point spread that mattered after 20 minutes was the one on the scoreboard.
The Knights took the lead on a Mac Ferner goal at 9:46 with assists to Colton Thibault and Derek Andrews. It was a power play goal as Brett Leidl was in the box for cross-checking.
Jamie Vlanich edged closer to having a full hour in penalty minutes in the playoffs after taking an unsportsmanlike minor at 9:31.
There was no damage done, however, as the scuffle that caused it also sent Knights forward Connor Richards to the box for two minutes for holding.
In the second, the Rebels had two early power play opportunities to tie things up on a delay of game to goal-scorer Ferner at 19:55 and then an interference call to Nathan Browne. Knights goaltender Dustin Nikkel turned aside all chances from the Rebels power play, however.
Travis Wellman got the biggest cheer of the night (to that point) from the home crowd, with a laser-like wrister from just inside the blue line that found the back of the Knights net.
Shots were 23 – 11 in favour of the Rebels heading in to the third but a late four-minute spearing call to Erik Alden at 1:37 meant the Rebels would start the third on the defence.
In the third, Rebels goaltender Jordan Gluck stepped up his game with some acrobatic saves to maintain the lead.
The shot clock slowly climbed in favour of the Knights as the pressure increased on the Rebels. Their power play, somewhat lacking throughout the playoffs, was 0 for 6 on the night.
At 16:22 of the third, the cheer for Wellman’s goal was outdone as Diego Bartlett took a feed from Stuart Walton, worked in close and got the game-winner past Nikkel with some quick stick-handling.
Game two of the series is tomorrow in Castlegar at 7:30 p.m. Games three and four will be played in Armstrong Friday, March 29 (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday, March 30 at 7:00 p.m.