The Kimberley Dynamiters closed out their series with the Fernie Ghostriders in thrilling fashion on Friday night, winning 3-2 in overtime to advance to the second round of the KIJHL playoffs.
The game six victory ensured that the Nitros will face the Cyclone Taylor Cup host Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the Eddie Mountain division finals.
Up 2-0 after 40 minutes in Fernie on Friday, goals by Chase Miller and Nicholas Ketola looked to have the Dynamiters poised to easily march on in the playoffs.
The Ghostriders, however, entered the third period as if they were the Griz taking down the grizzly bear.
The ‘Riders fired shots from all angles and found enough holes in Nitros’ goalie Cody Campbell’s armour to tie the game at two with 2:09 left in the third, forcing overtime.
The teams played a short ten minute first period of extra time but it remained a draw, so the ice was flooded and the teams returned for period two.
Quickly into the second frame of overtime, Tyler Van Steinburg soared in across the blueline and fired the puck in short side, scoring the game-winning goal for Kimberley.
“[Van Steinburg] is a guy [with a] skill level and hockey IQ that is above this level,” said coach and general manager Derek Stuart. “It seems like he decided to take the puck and take charge. It was a great play using his speed and the defencemen as a screen. He’s got one of the best shots on the team and he utilized it.”
Van Steinburg and company celebrated their win right in front of the Nitros faithful that made the road trip to Fernie.
Between the pipes, Campbell made 45 saves for his third straight win. Throughout that time the Nitros goalie has posted a 1.55 goals against average and a 0.956 save percentage.
“Since game three he has been outstanding,” Stuart said on his netminder. “He has probably been our most consistent guy, and he needs to be because he is our starting goalie.
“To handle the pressure with two of the last three in Fernie, with their crowd getting on him, is really impressive for an 18-year-old rookie.”
The star of the series, however, was James Farmer. Currently sitting at first in the KIJHL playoff scoring race, the 19-year-old recorded three goals and 10 assists, with two of the goals and six of the assists coming on the power play.
“The power play unit runs through him [and] he’s been great,” Stuart said. “[He’s] very smart with the puck on the power play and there are very few times where it doesn’t look like he has been a defenceman his whole life.
“Everyone knew his ability with the puck, his vision, and his calmness with the puck. But defensively, without the puck, he has been excellent as well.”
Another accomplishment for the Dynamiters was escaping a series with the Ghostriders without any injuries.
“We are healthy right now [and] no one is injured,” Stuart confirmed. “We somehow got out of that series unscathed. Everyone is 100% healthy and ready to go.”
With that bit of good news, the Dynamiters are ready to take on their new best-of-seven series opponent.
The Creston Valley Thunder Cats dispatched the Columbia Valley Rockies in four games in their last series and are lead by goaltender Brock Lefebvre and forwards Thomas Cankovic, who had four goals and eight assists in the series, and Justen James, who had three goals and five assists.
“From our standpoint, we are excited [for Creston],” Stuart said. “I think we match up well when we play our style of hockey.”
“I don’t think you can get two different teams that are more different in their style and the way they play their game [than Fernie and Creston]. We are going to have to shift gears mentally.”
The series opens on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Creston and game two is on Wednesday in Creston. The series then shifts to Kimberley for games three and four on Friday and Saturday.
MATCH STICKS: The other division finals in the KIJHL include the Beaver Valley Nitehawks vs. the Nelson Leafs, the Osoyoos Coyotes vs. the Summerland Steam, and the Chase Heat vs. the Kamloops Storm.