The Kimberley Dynamiters opened the Eddie Mountain Division finals against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats with games on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Johnny Bucyk Arena in Creston.
Heading into game one, Dynamiters head coach and general manager Derek Stuart wanted his team to continue where they left off against Fernie and they did just that.
The Nitros were able to steal home ice advantage by winning the opener in Creston 3-2. KIJHL Round One Star, James Farmer, continued to shine, earning a goal and an assist to help the Nitros keep pace with the Cats in periods one and two and it wasn’t until the third period when George Bertoia scored the game-winning goal.
Looking back at game one, head coach and general manager of the Cats, Jeff Dubois, felt that his team was a little sleepy because of their overconfidence in their series sweep of the Columbia Valley Rockies.
“I think we came out of the first round series being a little too impressed with ourselves,” Du Bois explained. “Realistically, our guys should’ve realized that in a Kimberley series things were not going to come easy. We took for granted that we have had a lot of success this past month, and we hadn’t faced a lot of adversity.
“Anyway you want to measure playoff hockey – compete level, intensity, winning battles – [it’s clear that] Kimberley made us look bad in all those areas [during game one].”
On Wednesday, the storyline was flipped as Austin Anselmo and Ronnie Wilkie each scored two goals and two assists to carry the Cats to a 4-1 win over the Nitros.
“You have 24 hours to regroup,” Dubois said. “The guys did a great job of getting back to where they needed to.”
The Dynamiters wanted to win both games, and not just be content with splitting the Creston contests, but they looked flat throughout game two.
“Any team wants to win a series in four,” Stuart said. “We weren’t looking for a split, [but] we didn’t get anything going on our power play, five on five, or penalty killing.”
“Creston played well and we didn’t, [so] now it becomes a best-of-five.”
The Nitros want to remove game two from their memory.
“We need to forget about game two completely [and] delete it from our minds,” Stuart said, “We just need to get back to playing our game.”
The series now shifts to the larger ice surface of the Kimberley Civic Centre for games three and four on Friday and Saturday. The bigger ice, rink history, and the raucous crowd are all elements that the Cats’ bench boss is aware and cautious of.
“That’s a rink, over the past couple of years, that we haven’t had fun in,” Du Bois said. “But we did pick up a couple of wins in Kimberley in January. We won two very close and tight games in that building.
“Kimberley plays to the size of their ice really well. They use the whole ice [and] I’m sure that on Friday and Saturday the stands are going to be packed, so we need to tune that out. If we play how we did in game two, we will be competitive.”
The Dynamiters, however, are thrilled to return home after three road games and partake in the energy that the Civic Centre crowd brings.
“The only home-ice advantage any team has is their crowds,” Stuart said. “I believe we have the best fans in the conference [and] we are looking forward to feeding off the energy that the crowd is going to bring.
“The series is just getting started now. The hate-on that is naturally there for a team like Fernie is starting to creep into our dressing room as well.”
The start time for both Friday and Saturday’s games is at 7 p.m.
For up-to-date Kimberley Dynamiter information visit: www.kimberleydynamiters.net/blog and follow Josh on twitter @joshuaklockhart.