Leafs land recruits to gear up for the KIJHL stretch run

first_imgDave McLellan has been around the junior-hockey-coaching block more than once.However, during his tenure behind the bench he’s never been part of a team that has been snake bitten as much as the Green and White.For the umpteenth weekend this season the Nelson Leafs enter Kootenay International Junior Hockey League play with the coaching staff not knowing how many or which players will be taking to the ice.“If I knew the players we had playing maybe I could tell you what we expect this weekend,” a puzzled McLellan said on the eve of Thursday practice at the NDCC Arena.Nelson is on the road for a pair of games against Eddie Mountain opposition.Friday, the Leafs are in Invermere to face the Columbia Valley Rockies before concluding the two-game swing Saturday in Fernie against the Ghostriders.“At this stage I’m hopeful we can find a way to win both games,” McLellan added. “That would be great for us, but at this stage we’ll just see what happens.”McLellan is optimistic some players that have been out of the lineup for quite some time — Patrick Croome and Blair Andrews — may be back on the bench for the weekend.However, while Nelson could get two key starters back, two more are in sick bay — Matt MacDonald and Aaron Brewer — and two others — Dylan Williamson and Brandon Chow — remain out of the lineup.Next home game for the Leafs, 1-3 to start 2015, is Friday, January 23 against Creston Valley Thunder Cats.Help is, hopefully, on its wayLeaf coach Dave McLellan felt like the Maytag Repairman prior to the BC Hockey January 10 roster deadline period as no one was calling the Heritage City franchise skipper.Still McLellan was able to snatch a few prospects from outside the KIJHL.McLellan traded for the rights to defenceman Brendan Grier from Comox of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Grier, a 6’5”, 230-pound defenceman is a prospect of the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League.McLellan is trying to convince Grier to return to hockey this season after the 17-year-old rearguard decided to hang up the skates due to a personal matter.The Leaf coach did find 17-year-old Tyler Fyfe, who was out of hockey after going home from the Peninsula Panthers of the VIJHL.The six-foot, 170-pound Fyfe was traded to Peninsula from Creston Valley Thunder Cats of the KIJHL.Nelson also welcomed back suspended forward Brendan Smith to the lineup.The six-foot 180-pound blueliner was hurt since being suspended by the Leafs in October.Time to put up, or shut up for Green and WhiteNow that the rosters are set, it’s time for the Leafs to make a statement or dig out the golf clubs for the summer break.“Getting ready for the playoffs been our main focus since we came back from the (Christmas) break,” McLellan said.“What we need is to get our key players back in the lineup to figure out what we’ve got but that’s difficult to do until we get them back,” he adds.McLellan likes the make up of the Leafs on paper.He’s happy with the forwards, is happy to have been able to solidify the blueline and is confident one of the two goalies — Adam Maida or Joey Karrer — will step up to lead the Leafs come playoff time.“I’ve talked to and challenged both goalies to be better and get ready for the playoff process,” McLellan said.“We’re going to see who is going to step up and be that guy for us in the playoffs.”Next up, Rockies, RidersNelson’s opposition Friday, Columbia Valley, currently sits last in the Eddie Mountain Division with an 8-26-0-0-6 mark.However, the Rockies are on a one game win streak.Meanwhile, Fernie, Saturday’s test, leads the Eddie Mountain group at 28-9-1-0-2. But the Riders have lost three straight heading into the weekend.last_img

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