Cooper Page scored at 11:39 of the second overtime period to lift the Kimberley Dynamiters to a 2-1 overtime victory over the shorthanded Nelson Leafs and win the 2018 KIJHL Kootenay Conference title in six games.
Page banged in a rebound off a Brock Palmer shot to win the Nitros its third conference championship in four years, while the Leafs came up empty in its second trip to the final in four years. The 38-7-1-1 Dynamiters finished the season with the best record in the KIJHL and are the odds on favourites to capture another KIJHL title when they meet up with the Revelstoke Grizzlies who beat the Osoyoos Coyotes in seven games.
Bryce MacDonald gave Kimberley the early lead 10 minutes into regulation. He caught Caiden Kreitz off-guard after skating around the net and backhanding a shot by the Leafs’ goaltender.
After 20 minutes, Nelson was lucky to only be down one goal at the intermission as the Nitros outshot the Leafs 10-6 in the first period.
The Leafs didn’t register a shot for the first eight minutes of the second period, but Sawyer Hunt’s heroics made sure that mattered little. Trail native Ryan Piva worked the puck to Hunt who sniped the top-corner goal that tied the game at one.
“I thought we had a stronger push after that happened,” Nelson’s Jack Karran told the Nelson Star. “We kind of dominated the third and in OT even. They got a kind of lucky one there. Tough way to end it.”
Piva was a post away from giving Nelson the lead a few minutes later. The Leafs were on the power play when Piva had an open look at the Kimberley net but rang it off the post.
The Leafs returned to the ice looking like a team on the edge of elimination. Ryan Cooper came close twice to a go-ahead goal, as did Karran, but couldn’t beat Kimberley netminder Cody Campbell.
Kreitz, who finished with 30 saves, did his part with several big stops, and when Karran went to the penalty box for obstruction the Leafs’ penalty kill held off the Dynamiters to keep their hopes intact. One more Nelson PK and it was all to play for in overtime.
A number of Nelson chances in the Kimberley crease ended up in a Leafs penalty shot with 6.9 seconds left in OT when a Dynamiter covered the puck with his glove.
Piva very slowly skated in on Cody Campbell and fired a shot that the Kimberley netminder got just enough of to deflect off the post and keep the game going. Leafs coach Mario DiBella said after he thought he gave Piva the wrong direction on where to shoot.
“I wanted to make sure that Piva understood he’s a great player, and it’s just a matter of centimetres and that puck was in.”
The dates of the KIJHL final between Kimberley and Revelstoke have yet to be released.