The KIJHL champion Kimberley Dynamiters began their run at the Cyclone Taylor Cup on Thursday.
The Dynamiters faced off against the Pacific Junior Hockey League champions, Delta Ice Hawks, at the Minoru Arenas in Richmond looking to win their first provincial title since the Kimberley Knights won the championship in 1980.
“It’s an honour [to represent the KIJHL]” Kimberley head coach and GM Derek Stuart told the Kimberley Bulletin, “There are so many good teams in this league, to have to go through four best-of-sevens to win the league is really grinding.
“To win this league and be able to represent it when we go to Richmond, we are going to do the best job we can to represent the league properly.”
In addition to the Hawks, the Dynamiters will play perennial Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) champion Campbell River Storm, attending their fourth straight Cyclone, and the host Richmond Sockeyes, winner of five Cyclone Taylor Cups. Although, the Sockeyes lost to the Ice Hawks in the second round of the PJHL playoff (Mar. 11), and have been idle for over a month.
To keep his team sharp, Sockeyes head coach Brett Reusch gave his team a week off then created a training camp type environment by bringing in major midget affiliates for expanded inter-squad games.
“The boys are itching and ready to go,” Reusch told the Richmond News. “It’s been a while since they played a meaningful game. We invited up some affiliates that probably can fit into this roster right now. It’s pushed the guys to work hard every practice and it’s been good. Almost a main camp feeling if you know what I mean.”
Kimberley dispatched both the Fernie Ghostriders and Columbia Valley Rockies in five games in the first two rounds of the best-of-seven KIJHL playoff series. They then took out the Nelson Leafs in six in the semifinal and the Revelstoke Grizzlies by the same number in the KIJHL final, ending that series a week ago Friday in a 5-3 victory.
“Hopefully it is an advantage to keep rolling,” said Stuart. “We need the rest, but we don’t need any more than that. We are going to be coming in fresh.
“Playing less than a week later is hopefully an advantage for us as opposed to some of the teams that have had to wait a while.”
The team is led by former Beaver Valley Nitehawk defenceman Brett Roberts who captained the Nitros to a 38-7-1-1 record in the regular season, tops in the KIJHL. A lucrative pipeline to Alberta afforded Kimberley their top four scorers in Coaldale native Brock Palmer (25-33-58), Airdrie product Matt Davies (15-39-54), Calgary’s Cam Russel (19-31-50), and arguably their best two-way player in James Farmer (22-27-49) from Strathmore.
Kimberley goaltender Cody Campbell led the KI in wins, 25, sporting a solid 2.17 goals-against average, and a .924 save percentage, and was brilliant in the playoffs with a 1.76 goals against and a .934 save percentage. The 20-year-old University of Central Oklahoma commit need to come up big at the Cyclone, where the four-team round-robin tournament is a sprint to the final. Each team plays each other once, and the two teams with the best record play in Sunday’s final.
The KIJHL champion has won three of the last four Cyclone titles, with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks winning in 2014 and 2017, and the 100 Mile House Wranglers in 2016. The Dynamiters came close in 2015, losing to the Storm in the final.
Kimberley played the Ice Hawks at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, but the score was unavailable at press time. They face off against the Sockeyes at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and against Campbell River on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.