Kootenay relaxes travel plans after posting sweep of Prince George

first_imgBy Bruce FuhrThe Nelson Daily SportsComing from the B.C. Interior, the Kootenay Wildcats log many road miles to compete on the B.C. Female AAA Hockey League circuit.So making another 16-hour trip to northern B.C. was a nightmare the team definitely didn’t want to experience.The Cats all but clinched the fourth and final playoff spot, and the right to host Prince George in the opening playoff round instead of traveling north, during the weekend after Kootenay swept the Cougars by identical 3-2 scores at the NDCC Arena.Kootenay now holds a commanding lead in the BCMHL standings.“It was a great effort by the girls today,” said Kootenay head coach Mario DiBella following Sunday’s nail-biting victory. “They overcame some adversity today to battle back from a 2-0 deficit.”“The (two-game-sweep) was huge for us because we didn’t want to make the 16-hour bus trip to Prince George to play the first playoff round,” DiBella added.Trailing 2-0 after one frame the Cats somehow found a way to penetrate the Cougar defence in the second. Kiana Strand did the damage for Kootenay scoring twice in the period. Hailey McLean snapped the 2-2 tie with a goal midway through the final frame and Kootenay, with Kayla Keraiff standing tall in the Kootenay nets, managed to hold off the pressing Cougars down the stretch.“I thought we came out flat in the first period but definitely our goaltender (Keraiff) stepped up her play in the second and third periods . . . she was outstanding,” DiBella explained. “But I’d like to comment on the play Kiana Strand. She was an incredible asset to our team today. Not only did she score two goals but her effort is always there and she’s a huge leader on this team when it comes to her play on the ice.”Saturday’s game was just as tight as Sunday between these two evenly matched teams.Shea Weighill staked Kootenay to a 2-2 tie after two periods before Holly Nikirk notched the winner in the third.The game was halted when Prince George forward Taya Garneau was removed from the ice on a stretcher after being injury during an on-ice collision.Garneau was taken to Kootenay Lake District Hospital by ambulance with a back injury and concussion. She was later released.Tempers boiled following the hit, leading to a parade to the penalty box.“Both the North and Kootenay are physical teams so there’s lots of contact,” said DiBella. “It’s great the officials are allowing the coincidental contact to occur. But these girls are firey competitors so there is a certain level of angst among the players on the ice.”The Cats are idle until early March when Kootenay hosts Fraser Valley Phantom for a two-game series at the NDCC Arena.KOOTENAY NOTES: Rearguard Amiee DiBella and center Daley Oddy of the Wildcats join former Kootenay star Ella Matteucci as members of Team B.C. that will participate in the Canada Winter Games. The national competition begins Friday in Halifax. The female part of the competition commences the second week of the games. DiBella is from Nelson while Oddy lives in Cranbrook and Matteucci is from Fruitvale.sports@thenelsondaily.comlast_img