They say lightning never strikes twice, but the Kimberley Dynamiters are proving that theory wrong.
With a 3-1 triumph over the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in Game 5 of the Kootenay Conference final, the Dynamiters claimed a 4-1 series victory, effectively punching a ticket to the KIJHL championship for the second consecutive year.
“I don’t want to say we expected it, but I think a lot of the guys that were here last year knew what it would take to get here,” said Dynamiters goaltender Tyson Brouwer after Monday’s victory. “We all knew in the back of our heads that we could get here, so it’s a familiar feeling. We’re loving every minute of it.
“You hear all the guys talk about how much sacrifice and how much hard work it took to get there last year. It just makes you want to go that extra mile to get there again.”
Not only is it the second consecutive season the Dynamiters have advanced to the league championship, it is the second consecutive season they have had to go through the Nitehawks in order to do so.
“Any time you beat Beaver Valley, you’ve accomplished something special,” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, following his team’s Game 5 win.
“I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff. Jonesy has been there a long time and they’ve got a winning tradition… A winning tradition brings good players. We beat a good team.”
In 2015, the Dynamiters also claimed a five-game victory over the Nitehawks before going on to win the KIJHL crown in six games over the Kamloops Storm.
“Losing is tough, but it’s made easier when you lose to a real good hockey team,” said Terry Jones, head coach of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, following Game 5.
“These guys are determined to go a long ways. I wish them well.”
The Dynamiters will face the 100 Mile House Wranglers in the 2016 KIJHL championship. The Wranglers advanced to the league final after derailing the Summerland Steam in five games to claim the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference championship.
“It’s obviously a good feeling, but none of us are satisfied yet — we still have a job to do,” said Dynamiters captain Jason Richter, who tallied the game- and series-clinching goal Monday night.
“Everyone is going to have to go all in. Everyone needs the will to win and the heart to win. We’re going to do everything in our power and that’s what it’s going to take.”
The Dynamiters received scoring from Tyler Van Steinburg, Richter and Franco Colapaolo, with goaltender Tyson Brouwer making 29 saves between the pipes in Game 5.
Allan Pruss responded on behalf of the Nitehawks, while goaltender Tallon Kramer was electric, even in defeat, turning aside 32 shots.
Richter’s game- and series-clinching marker could not have come at a better time for the home team and a worse time for the visitors.
With Devin Nemes serving a slashing minor, Richter redirected a Jordan Busch point shot that found the five-hole on Kramer and trickled through to give the Dynamiters a 2-1 lead 2:32 into the third period, sending the majority of the 1,155 fans at the Kimberley Civic Centre into a frenzy.
“It was a poor read that led to a poor penalty and poor penalties are always the hardest to kill,” Jones said. “It’s their first power-play goal of the series and it turns out to be the series winner. It’s ironic, when we did such a great job on all our kills, that that one loses it for us.”
Richter’s power-play tally was his team’s only man-advantage conversion of the entire conference final as the Nitehawks penalty kill went an astounding 19-for-20. Unfortunately for coach Jones and the Nitehawks, that one failed kill came at the worst possible moment.
“It’s funny how it happened, it wasn’t pretty or anything else,” Bancks said of Richter’s power-play effort. “It was a shot that hit someone and went it. You shoot the puck with a screen and good things happen.”
Tense time ensued immediately after Richter’s game-changing goal as Brouwer played the puck up over the glass and out of play, earning himself a delay of game penalty and sending the Nitehawks to the man advantage.
Though the visitors created a few opportunities, Brouwer was able to hold the fort and the Dynamiters penalty kill went to work keeping Beaver Valley from drawing even.
Colapaolo added the necessary insurance with 7:51 remaining in regulation. Dancing past Nitehawks defenceman Ryan Terpsma, the 19-year-old Colapaolo slid the puck low past Kramer for a 3-1 lead.
“I thought we outworked them [in the third period],” Bancks said. “One of the things people don’t really appreciate with our team is the back pressure. The number of times it looks like they’ve got a play, a stick will come in from behind and poke the puck into the corner. That comes from good hard work.
“We do that better than just about everybody and that’s an important part of it. We outworked them in the third period, cycled the puck well and Franco got a huge goal for us. He showed his poise and patience. He’s been a nice addition.”
Despite the decisive finish in the third period, Game 5 — like almost every game before it between the Nitehawks and Dynamiters — was tightly contested from the first puck drop.
Van Steinburg opened the scoring in the first period.
After a clean face-off win to the glove side of Kramer, the puck came to Van Steinburg, who wasted no time sending a quick wrist shot from the point and past Kramer’s glove 7:18 into the first period.
Pruss knotted the game 1-1 on a power play 5:40 into the second period.
Brouwer made the initial save, but the frozen rubber found a hole and slowly trickled up and over the Nitros netminder before rolling over the goal line to even the score after 40 minutes.
Kramer was his usual stellar self in Game 5, particularly in the second and third periods.
“He’s a great kid, a great leader, a great goalie,” Jones said of Kramer. “He never quit on anything. He never quit on any play and that’s the kind of person he is.”
After Pruss’ tying tally, the Dynamiters had ample opportunity to retake the lead, but the 19-year-old puck-stopper was having none of it.
The best chance of the second period came as Richter burst in alone behind the Nitehawks defence. Racing across the Beaver Valley blueline, the Kimberley captain bolted to the slot before sending a quick snapshot high and wide of Kramer, who was well out of the blue paint aggressively challenging.
Next, Kramer got low to make a fantastic split save in tight with Colapaolo crashing through the crease.
In the third period, Graham Dugdale busted in alone on Kramer, who was once again forced to make a massive save, keeping his team within one goal after Richter had given the Dynamiters the lead.
Next, the product of Grande Prairie, Alta., stoned Eric Buckley off a glorious two-on-one opportunity.
Prior to Richter’s series-clincher, Buckley thought he had given the Dynamiters a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal, but the on-ice officials saw otherwise.
Taking a loose puck, the veteran forward spun and fired low. As the red light came on, the nearest referee immediately washed out the goal.
Mere moments later, Richter registered the winner, leaving no question between the goal judge and on-ice officials.
With the victory, the Dynamiters take on the 100 Mile House Wranglers in the KIJHL championship, which is slated to begin Saturday, March 26 at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
See the Daily Townsman/Daily Bulletin for the complete KIJHL championship schedule and an in-depth preview later this week.