The Nelson Leafs dominated play throughout Game 6 but needed double overtime to beat the Kimberley Dynamiters. Photo: Tyler Harper

The Nelson Leafs dominated play throughout Game 6 but needed double overtime to beat the Kimberley Dynamiters. Photo: Tyler Harper

‘Pure joy’: Nelson Leafs win Game 6 in 2OT, advance to KIJHL championship

Liam Noble scored in the 2-1 win over the Kimberley Dynamiters

Liam Noble calls it the biggest goal of his life. It’s also the most important goal for the Nelson Leafs in over a decade.

The Leafs had spent 83 minutes trying to beat Kimberley Dynamiters star goaltender Trystan Self on Tuesday. They dominated possession, outshot the visitors every period and could only manage one goal in regulation.

Then in double overtime, on the Leafs’ 48th shot of the game, Noble took a pass from Bryce Sookro and slapped a shot he says was just an effort to make contact.

That was the shot that finally beat Self, clinched the Kootenay Conference finals and sent Nelson to its first KIJHL championship series in 12 years.

“I’ve never felt anything like it to be honest,” said Noble.

Noble’s goal gave the Leafs a 2-1 win in Game 6 in front of a raucous 1,146 fans at the Nelson and District Community Complex, just 54 seats short of capacity.

On Friday they travel to Revelstoke where they will play the Grizzlies in a best-of-seven series for the Teck Cup.

Leafs captain Tyler Pisiak, whose hat trick and overtime winner put Nelson ahead one night earlier in Game 5, was shaking with excitement after the game. He said he couldn’t remember Noble’s goal — the moment had already been lost in euphoria.

“Just joy,” he said. “Pure joy.”

Nelson was down 2-0 in the series after dropping the first two games in Kimberley before storming back to win four straight against one of the best Junior B franchises in B.C.

The Dynamiters have played in four of the last five Teck Cups, winning two of them. To beat them, the Leafs changed tactics in Game 3 by focusing on a tenacious forecheck and hard hits.

Leafs head coach Mario DiBella, serving his final season before retirement, said the trip to the championship series was long overdue.

DiBella took over a middling team halfway into the 2015-16 season, and with general manager Lance Morey and assistant coach/GM Adam DiBella has turned the Leafs into a consistent competitor.

“We feel that we’ve built this organization,” said Mario DiBella. “Players want to come here, it’s a destination place now to play, and for me personally there’s great satisfaction in getting a group of players who listen as well as this group does and execute as per the game plan.

“Onwards and upwards.”

An injured Rhett Hamilton celebrates with his teammates Tenzin Mint, Johnny Carmichael and Marko Pavlovic after the win. Photo: Tyler Harper

An injured Rhett Hamilton celebrates with his teammates Tenzin Mint, Johnny Carmichael and Marko Pavlovic after the win. Photo: Tyler Harper

Sookro had the Leafs’ other goal and Dylan Marshall finished with 21 saves in a relatively easy night for the Nelson goaltender. Most of the action was at the other end of the ice.

Tyler Russell had the lone goal for the Dynamiters, who relied on another stellar performance from Self.

The start to Game 6 was a battle of attrition in the neutral zone where passing lanes were clogged and scoring chances slim. Both sides combined for just six shots 12 minutes into the game.

Leafs forward Johnny Carmichael earned a gasp from the crowd when he deked through a defender and managed to get a shot off as he was being pulled down. On the ensuing power play, a giveaway led to a 2-on-1 for Kimberley. But Marshall went post to post for a massive save.

Self was equally to the task, holding off several quality chances and keeping Nelson scoreless despite the home team ending the period having outshot Kimberley 13-5.

The grind continued in the second period, and there was little difference from the first. Nelson again outshot Kimberley 13-7, but few chances seemed to phase Self as the Dynamiters did well to keep the Leafs pinned along the boards.

Leafs’ Tyson Lautard, Lane Goodwin and Bryce Sookro. Photo: Tyler Harper

Leafs’ Tyson Lautard, Lane Goodwin and Bryce Sookro. Photo: Tyler Harper

The stalemate finally ended in the Leafs’ favour three minutes into the third period. Sookro swiped the puck from a Dynamiter and whipped a wrist shot past Self to send a shockwave through the crowd.

The Leafs were starting to dream of the Cup finals when a bad giveaway changed the tone of the game. Nelson defenceman Ryland Mennie looked to clear the puck but sent it straight to Russell, who skated in from the blueline and fired to beat Marshall with five minutes left in regulation.

That guaranteed overtime, and a dramatic ending that shook the building.

The post-season has been a rollercoaster for the Leafs.

After clinching the Neil Murdoch Division, they were heavily favoured to win the opening round only to fall behind 3-1 to the Castlegar Rebels and be forced to rally. In the second round, the Leafs traded wins with Beaver Valley before stunning the Nitehawks in Fruitvale to clinch the series.

Captain Tyler Pisiak celebrates, unaware of a photo bomb by Liam Noble. Photo: Tyler Harper

Captain Tyler Pisiak celebrates, unaware of a photo bomb by Liam Noble. Photo: Tyler Harper

Now they’ve won four straight games to eliminate Kimberley.

“We’ve been through it all before in these playoffs,” said Noble. “This is a team that just puts one foot in front of the other and just keeps going no matter what the score is on the board.”

Pisiak said the Leafs will now try to settle themselves before turning their attention to Revelstoke.

The Grizzlies, who won the last Teck Cup in 2019 (2020-2021 was cancelled by the pandemic), have had an easy ride to the championship. They swept their opening series against the Sicamous Eagles, beat the Kamloops Storm in six games and swept the Osoyoos Coyotes in the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference finals.

The Leafs have one more series to win, but Pisiak said he knew what Tuesday’s victory meant to the team and the city.

“The fans, the city, they deserve it,” he said. “The atmosphere in the rink tonight, it was crazy. It’s hard to put into words. Every time you go on the ice in front of the fans, you want to win it for them.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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Joe Davidson was smiling ear to ear after the Game 6 win. Photo: Tyler Harper

Joe Davidson was smiling ear to ear after the Game 6 win. Photo: Tyler Harper

Kimberley Dynamiters goaltender Trystan Self was sensational throughout the series. He made 46 saves in Game 6. Photo: Tyler Harper

Kimberley Dynamiters goaltender Trystan Self was sensational throughout the series. He made 46 saves in Game 6. Photo: Tyler Harper