The Kootenay Conference final kicked off on Wednesday at the Beaver Valley Arena with a bang, as the visiting Kimberley Dynamiters skated to a thrilling 3-2 overtime win against the host Nitehawks.
Eric Buckley’s overtime winner on a breakaway with two minutes and one second remaining in the first overtime ended a fast and physical, but eminently entertaining match that saw the Eddie Murdoch division champions survive an early onslaught by B.V. to take Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
“It’s funny he (Buckley) had three breakaways against Fernie and scored on all of them, so it was funny, you wonder if the little guy is going to do it again and yes he did, so it was a real relief,” said Kimberley coach Jerry Bancks.
Kimberley dispatched the number-one seeded Ghostriders in six games to win the Murdoch division title on Monday, while B.V. took care of the Castlegar Rebels in four straight in the Neil Murdoch division final Friday.
The extra rest seemed to benefit the Hawks as B.V. came out flying in the first period outshooting the Dynamiters 16-7 in the period, but goaltender Tyson Brouwer stymied Hawks shooters to keep the game scoreless through one.
“We don’t see these guys very often, and I wanted to see how we came out,” said Bancks. “It was a good challenge to see and I walked by the rooms in the first period and their eyes were kind of wide, I said, ‘Well guys that’s a little more reality here, so let’s see if we can respond.’ and they did; as the game wore on I thought we got better.”
The Nitehawks would go up 1-0 after Dynamiter forward Sawyer Hunt was sent off for interference at 14:12 of the second period. Ross Armour won the draw back to Andrew Miller who made a quick pass to Tyler Hartman, and the Grande Prairie native fired it high glove side on a screened Brouwer.
The game would remain 1-0 through the middle frame, with the Hawks again holding a 12-6 edge on shots in the second.
But 6:37 into the third period, the Nitehawks would fail to clear the zone, and Hunt would corral the puck in the left circle, and send a cross-ice pass to Alex Rosolowsky who fired it into the open net.
The Nitehawks regained the lead with 5:56 to play in the third when Ross Armour took a Mitch Foyle pass and drove to the front of the net, jamming it by the Dynamiter goalie. Up 2-1, it looked like the goal might stand up, however, Kimberley replied just over two minutes later when Coy Prevost banged in a rebound after Schamerhorn made a great blocker save on Buckley’s point-blank shot.
While, it was a disappointing loss, Beaver Valley coach Terry Jones was encouraged by the team’s dominance through much of the game.
“In a lot of respects, I felt pretty good about how we played,” said Jones. “I thought we out-chanced them, we outshot them, but I felt they took good advantage of our mistakes.”
The Dynamiters looked energized in the third period and overtime frame, as the game turned into an end-to-end battle that saw Buckley finish it when he was sprung in all alone by Tyler McKinnon, and would go back-hand-forehand before snapping it off the post and in for the victory.
Despite just two days rest, the Dynamiters looked like the more rested team at times in the late going, something Bancks attributes to his team’s youth. With just one 20-year-old player on its roster, the Dynamiter experiment has paid dividends in the playoffs.
“One of the reasons we are younger is I believe we can push them a bit harder, and I can promise you, we probably practice harder than anybody, and that allows us to have a little better fitness hopefully down the stretch and in third periods,” said Bancks. “And it’s kind of played out that way for us, and that was our edge against Fernie. I think those two tough rounds have helped us, whereas they (Beaver Valley) may not have had as tough a go as we had I don’t think.”
The Hawks outshot the Dynamiters 40-23 and went 1-for-5 on the power play while Kimberley was 0-for-3.
Kimberley goalie, Brouwer, was the difference in Games 4-6 of the Ghostriders series, and in five close games in their opening series against Creston. But Jones isn’t concerned with the Kimberley netminder, and expects his players to solve him just as they did the Rebels goalie Patrick Zubick after his brilliant Game 1 performance.
“I think he is a great goalie but I don’t think he was the difference last night. We had opportunities and we didn’t bear down, I thought we hit him in the guts a lot, which, when a goalie’s good, that’s what happens, but I felt like we out-chanced them and we’ll be better tonight.”
The Nitehawks suffered a big blow to their line up on Tuesday when defenceman Andrew Miller left the game with injury and is not expected to return.
The Nitehawks and Kimberley played Game 2 on Wednesday night, but the score was unavailable at press time. The series switches to Kimberley for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday.
In the Okanagan-Shuswap final the Osoyoos Coyotes trounced the Kamloops Storm 7-2 in their opening match up.