While one player does not a team make, goaltender Tyson Brouwer proved to be the deciding factor as the Kimberley Dynamiters netminder stopped 46 of 47 shots in a 5-1 victory over the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Tuesday to win the KIJHL Kootenay Conference championship.
“It feels great, just great,” said Kimberley coach Jerry Bancks. “Anytime you beat a Terry Jones coached team you have a good team.”
The win for Kimberley marks its first Kootenay Conference title in 35 years, while for the Nitehawks, it was their first series loss in two years, after marching through the KIJHL playoffs on their way to their coronation as Western Canadian Keystone Cup champions in 2014.
“When you reflect (on the year), it sure doesn’t feel good right now, and I think we left a lot on the table, and for the players on our team, you have to feel for those players that really played with their hearts,” said Beaver Valley coach and GM Terry Jones. “We just didn’t play 60 complete minutes and that’s what it takes to win playoff games.”
The Nitehawks Game 5 series loss was a particularly tough one to swallow for a B.V. team that had outplayed and outshot the Dynamiters throughout most of their Kootenay Conference matches, but a combination of great goaltending and shot-blocking from Dynamite forwards and defence stifled the Hawks’ offence.
“There was 40 shots, but there was probably 30 blocked shots, and I give the other team credit for committing to blocking those shots, and putting their body out there,” said Jones. “For us, we had two shots that weren’t blocked that went into the net. That’s the difference between winning and losing.”
Tyler Kinnon scored the winning goal with 3:54 to go in the first period, with a shot from the blue line that sailed through a mass of bodies before finding the back of the net. It was Kinnon’s first goal of the playoffs, and the series-winning tally couldn’t have come at a better time for the 19-year-old defenceman.
The Nitehawks outshot the Dynamiters 20-7 in the first but trailed 2-0 after Coy Prevost opened the scoring on the power play barely two minutes in, when the puck took a bad bounce off the back boards right to Prevost who batted it in at the side of the net.
Jacob Boyczuk would get the Hawks within one on his wrister from the top of the slot midway through the second period, but B.V. wouldn’t beat Bouwer again despite outshooting Kimberley 40-17 through two periods.
“B.V. Is one heck of a team,” said Brouwer. “It definitely wasn’t easy, but I felt we did a great job of getting on them early in their rink, winning the first two games was key.”
And emerging from the first two periods with the lead seemed to spark the Dynamiters as Braden Saretsky netted another power-play goal in identical fashion, on a long point shot that eluded screened Hawks goalie Carson Shamerhorn less than 90 seconds into the third.
Trevor Van Steinburg would make it 4-1, on a breakaway deke with 5:28 remaining, as Kimberley’s confidence grew as time wound down.
“Fitness I thought won the third periods,” said Bancks. “Their forechecks slowed down about the mid-way point, and we could cope with it better . . . if we can get to the third period were looking pretty good.”
The Hawks would pull their goalie, but the Dynamiters defence held, and Kimberley’s Keenan Haase fired the dagger into the empty net with 25 seconds to play in regulation.
“I felt like our last period was the worst period of the series, and when you look at the game tonight it started off with a lack of discipline and the lack of discipline killed us in the end,” said Jones. “Three power play goals against really put us behind the 8-ball, and makes us change the strategy and structure of the game, and it’s just not the way we wanted to play.”
B.V. outshot the Dynamiters 47-28 on the night, but could not solve Brouwer who stopped 182 of 195 Nitehawk shots in the five matches, compared to 123 shots for the Dynamiters. The Lethbridge native has picked up 12 wins in 14 playoff games, stopping 401 of 423 shots for a 1.52 goals against average and a stunning .948 save percentage.
“I just take it minute by minute,” said Brouwer. “Jerry has a great motto – don’t get too high, don’t get too low – and you just worry about the next shift, so I try to keep that in my mind. I don’t really look into the future, I just worry about the next shot, and that helps.”