Well hockey fans, the KIJHL playoffs have arrived with eight game, first-round series that is three games in at time of writing.
In the Doug Birks Division there are two rivalries underway, third-place Kamloops Storm are up two games to one versus the 100 Mile House Wranglers. This column will focus on the first-place Chase Heat versus the fourth-place Revelstoke Grizzlies.
Game 1 Friday, Feb. 24 started with Jake Delorme punching the puck in from Daniyal Nussipakynov in the first period. The Stoke tied the match off the stick of Tommy Bodtker.
In the second, Michael Fidanza, on the power play from Grady Musgrave and Josh Bourne, restored the lead. Then Fidanza, with his second from Dayton Keith and Bourne, made it 3-1. However, penalty trouble allowed the Bears attack to come back hard with three goals, Bodtker on the power play, Matthew Monk on the power play and then Bradley Newans, to end the period 4-3 visitors.
In the third, Tyler Chavez-Leech extended the lead before Bourne from Zachary Fournier and Travis Beaubien made it a close, a 5-4 loss to the visiting Grizzlies.
Game 2 less then 24 hours later, on Saturday, Feb. 25 in front of a stellar crowd, saw a different outcome. No scoring in the first, the Heat got a pair in the second once again with Jake Delorme opening up the game from Kaden Black and Pat Brady, before Bourne on the power play from Beaubien and Fidanza. In the third, Mason Palaga on the power play from Fournier and Brady makes it 3-0. However, the hot Bodtker put a dent in the score on the power play for the crew from the Mountain Mecca. This one is a 3-1 victory for the Nic Bruyere led Heat who stopped 27 of 28 shots.
Game 3 in four nights saw the Chase squad bus to the Revelstoke Forum for a thrilling showdown in front of more than 1,000 in attendance. A fan bus from the shores of the Shuswap ensured loud, noisy and raucous support for the Heat.
In the first, tenacious Grady Musgrave blasted in a point shot from Beaubien and Kolten Moore. A power-play marker from the surprising “Diesel” Delorme from Fidanza and Bourne made it 2-0 after 20. No scoring in the second but hard, nasty play at both ends had the crowd buzzing. In the third the Grizzlies’ Ullar Wiatzka threw a scare into the Chase contingent; however, a hard earned 2-1 win was backstopped by Bruyere, who stymied 26 of 27 attempts.
The best of seven series stands at two games to one for the Chase Heat. The remaining games will go back and forth until the magic four wins is achieved.