A frustrating affair for the Castlegar Rebels tonight in Nelson, as their winning streak against the Leafs came to an abrupt end with a 5-3 loss at the NDCC Arena.
Dustin Johnson's long wrister 26 seconds into the third period stood as the game-winner. It fooled Rebels goaltender Alex Ross, glancing off his shoulder into the back of the net to give the Leafs a two-goal advantage after blowing an early 2-0 lead. Though Mike Wiest cut it to 4-3 a few minutes later, the Leafs would get an empty-net bankshot from Colton Malmsten to seal the deal.
Braeden Hikichi, Colton Schell and Cody Abbey also scored for Nelson, while Stuart Walton and Erik Wentzel added tallies for Castlegar.
The gap could have been a lot wider were it not for several ten-bell saves from Ross in the first two periods. Castlegar, to me, looked a bit flat, and were easily frustrated by a Leafs squad that doled out plenty of punishment and plenty of trash-talk. Both teams also seemed quite at odds with some intriguing non-calls from tonight's referee, as was the large crowd of about 400 fans.
Nelson also did a good job of blocking shooting lanes, and limited the Rebels to only 7 shots over the final 40 minutes. It was a much more consistent effort, and a much different Leafs team than the one that was obliterated 9-0 at the Complex a month ago.
For Castlegar, the best medicine is perhaps the upcoming busy weekend. The Rebels play three times in three days, beginning with a rare visit to Kimberley Friday night.