With less than a month left in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League regular season, the top two teams in the Kootenay Conference served up a perfect playoff appetizer Saturday night in Fruitvale.
In a game that featured big hits, big goals and big saves it came down to an untimely mistake by the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and an opportunistic goal by the Kimberley Dynamiters as they headed back to the East Kootenay with a 4-3 double overtime win.
Kimberley’s Sawyer Hunt scored twice including the game winner with two minutes gone in the three-on-three sudden death period to give the Kootenay Conference-leading Dynamiters its league-leading 36th win.
Hunt, who also opened the scoring Saturday night, knocked a clearing attempt by Nitehawks goaltender Tallon Kramer out of mid-air and quickly snapped it by the Beaver Valley netminder to stun the big crowd in Fruitvale.
It was a tough way to end a game dominated by great goaltending at both ends of the rink by Kramer, who made 29 saves, and Kimberley’s Tyson Brouwer, who turned aside 50 shots.
The showdown between the conference’s top two teams had all the makings of a battle for supremacy with the type of tempo usually reserved for playoff games.
“We’re just trying to get firing on all cylinders for the playoffs,” explained Dynamiters coach Byron Garrels, who was filling behind the bench while head coach Jerry Bancks attended a weekend wedding.
“We had lost our last two games coming into this one so it was a gut check game for us.”
Meanwhile, Beaver Valley head coach Terry Jones took solace in the loss pointing to his team’s solid effort.
“When you’re playing a good team like Kimberley it’s a measuring stick to see where you are. I was happy with the way we played. I thought we played a pretty complete game.
“We had 60 hits. That’s a good indication we’re doing things the right way.”
Braden Fuller for Beaver Valley and Kimberley’s Hunt scored as the teams skated to a 1-1 draw after 20 minutes.
But Fuller potted his second goal on a great solo effort just 54 seconds into the middle frame to give Beaver Valley a 2-1 lead heading into the third.
The score could have been much more if not for the goaltending at both ends of the rink that included highlight reel stops. Both Kramer and Brouwer flashed great glove saves and foiled quality scoring chances throughout the night.
Eric Buckley scored five minutes into the third for the Dynamiters to knot the game at 2-2 but minutes later Brett Roberts blasted a shot by Brouwer to put the Hawks up 3-2.
It stayed that way until Kimberley wasted little time cashing in on a power play with Jared Marchi finishing off a perfect cross-ice pass leaving Kramer little chance to prevent the tying goal with 11:46 to play.
Jones pointed to that goal, and his team’s inability to capitalize on its power play chances, as the difference in the game.
Neverthelss, Beaver Valley had the best opportunities in the overtime including a great chance by Fuller, who was looking for the hat trick goal, but the Hawks couldn’t beat Brouwer to pull out the victory.
“We’re lucky to have Tyson Brouwer back there,” said Garrels. “He’s a big game goalie and he showed it tonight.”
Jones wasn’t going to let one miscue by his goaltender spoil an otherwise strong performance by his club.
“If we play every game from here on in like that we’ll be doing pretty good.”