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Leafs claim Murdoch Division, host rival Rebels in KIJHL playoff series

Nelson Leafs saluted longtime coach Mario DiBella prior to Saturday's KIJHL contest against Grand Forks at the NDCC Arena. DiBella participated in the ceremonial puck drop with longtime friend and mentor Mike Laughton. — Photo courtesy Peter Muirhead

The Nelson Leafs can cross one item from their the 2022 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League bucket list after the Green and White captured the Neil Murdoch Division regular season title.

The Leafs posted a weekend sweep of Murdoch rivals Beaver Valley Nitehawks, 4-3 in OT, and Grand Forks Border Bruins, 7-1, to finish the season with a 31-10-0-1 record — 16 points ahead of second place Hawks.

Nelson, winners of 14 of 15 games to close out the regular season, opens the KIJHL Playoffs with a divisional semi-final matchup against Castlegar Rebels, beginning Tuesday at the NDCC Arena.

Puck drop is 7 p.m.

Castlegar finished in fourth spot in the division with a 16-24-1-1 record.

Game two of the series goes Wednesday in Nelson before the best-of-seven affair shifts to the Sunflower City for Games three and four, Friday and Saturday.

The 2022 KIJHL post season will be the last playoff run for Leafs head coach Mario DiBella.

The veteran bench boss recently announced that he will retire following the playoffs.

In the other Murdoch Semi Final, Beaver Valley hosts Creston Valley Thunder Cats beginning Tuesday in Fruitvale.

In the Eddie Mountain Division, division winning Kimberley Dynamiters host Golden Rockets while Fernie Ghostriders meet Columbia Valley Rockies.

In the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference, Revelstoke Grizzlies face Sicamous Eagle; Kamloops Storm host Chase Heat; Osoyoos Coyotes battle Princeton Posse and Kelowna Chief open against Summerland Steam.

The KIJHL Champion represents the league at the Cyclone Taylor Cup April 7-10 in Delta.

Nelson Leafs head coach Mario DiBella was presented with a signed sweater by players prior to Saturday's KIJHL game at the NDCC Arena. DiBella will retire from coaching the Leafs at the conclusion of the post season.