Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Nelson Leafs even the series with a 5-3 Game Two win against Kimberley Dynamiters

After a massive 8-0 win for the Kimberley Dynamiters in Game One, the Nitro's knew they would be up against a very different Nelson Leafs team in Game Two.

Dynamiters head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said after the 8-0 win, "When the puck drops tomorrow, tonight's [8-0 win] means absolutely nothing."

That principle applied to both teams. The last time Nelson was shutout on October 28, they went on a seven game win streak. Nelson was prepared to show that losing 8-0 meant nothing to them.

The Leafs Keenan Crossman lead the charge in the first period, scoring the Leafs first goal of the game and series.

Former Leaf, Ryan Keilty responded for the Dynamiters, tying the game at one. It was Keilty's first game back in the lineup since February 3rd.

"Ryan was rusty and hesitant as expected after missing nearly seven weeks." Stuart said, "What was impressive was how hard he worked and his smart puck decisions."

Dominating the first period, Nelson's Ryan Cooper made it 2-1, and then Crossman scored his second of the game, making it 3-1 before the first period was complete.

"In my opinion our confidence turned into cockiness." Stuart said, "It seemed like we thought we could simply show up and it would be easy. That's the only explanation I have for perhaps our worst first period of the season."

Also during the first 20 minutes, both captains, Sawyer Hunt and Brett Roberts, were dealt game misconducts for checking from behind on different plays. Both teams entered the second period captain-less.

The Leafs did not stop their attack as Jaiden LaPorte scored on the power play, 58 seconds into the second period.

The eventual Home Star, Brandt Bertoia, was able to cut the Leafs lead in half, making it 4-2.

That would be how the second period would end, 4-2. The Nitro's outshot the Leafs 12-7 this period, but struggled to solve Josh Williams.

Cam Russell would give the Dynamiters hope as he brought them within one goal of the Leafs.

The officials let the teams play five-on-five, creating intense and entertaining hockey. They called one coincidental penalty, until the two minute mark when the Nitro's were called for high-sticking. This made it really difficult for the Dynamiters to have their last minute push as the Leafs were attacking on the power play.

Nelson's eventual Away Star Ryan Piva put the game away scoring on the power play with 48 seconds left.

The Leafs would win Game Two 5-3, handing the Nitro's their first home loss of the playoffs.

Looking back at the game it was the first period that determined the outcome of the game,

"Very disappointing first period." Staurt said. "In the second and third we were much better and started to take advantage of their fatigue. I thought we controlled the game in the last 40 minutes."

The series now turns into a best-of-five series, giving the Leafs the home advantage. Games Three and Four are in Nelson on Monday and Tuesday.

Stuart has one word for what the Nitro's need to improve on going to Nelson, simplify.

"Simplifying things with the puck when we aren't at our best. We've been good in five of the six periods thus far, but in the one period that we were bad we gave them two easy goals by committing unforced errors with the puck."

Puck drop is 8:30 p.m. (MDT) at Nelson's Community Complex for both games.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Kimberley Dynamiters burn the Nelson Leafs 8-0 in Game One

Friday marked the start of the Kootenay Conference Finals between the Nelson Leafs and the Kimberley Dynamiters. This is the first time these two teams have met in the playoffs since 1998 when both teams were a part of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.

Lady Luck was on the Nitro's side early in the game, as not even four minutes into the opening period, James Farmer was the benefactor of an awkward bounce. The Nitro's were up 1-0.

Two minutes later, Mason Palaga scored on the power play. Nicholas Ketola scored a beautiful short handed goal on his former team to make it 3-0, chasing arguably the KIJHL's best regular season keeper Josh Williams from the net.

Minutes before the first period ended, Cooper Page scored the teams second power play goal. The Dynamiters had a surprisingly huge 4-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.

"It was one of those games were everything went out way." Head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said. "We were skating like how we wanted to, and we wanted to send a message in the first period, regardless of the score."

The Dynamiters had to be careful, the Leafs had shown just three games ago that they could score eight goals in two periods.

At the start of the second, the Nitro's continued their barrage. By the middle of the second period they had a 7-0 lead with goals from Matt Davies, Page, and Palaga.

The Leafs had their own power play chances late in the second period, but were unable to solve the Nitro's PK and goaltender Cody Campbell.

After 40 minutes the Nitro's had commanding 7-0 lead.

The pace in the third period slowed considerably. The two teams were swapping penalties, and the Nitro's were trying to pass time with puck control.

Cam Russell made it 8-0 scoring the teams fifth power play goal of the game.

Cody Campbell made 23 saves for his shutout this post-season. His second playoff shutout of his KIJHL career.

Page was named the Home Star of the Game scoring two goals and two assists, he would later be named as Hot in the KIJHL. These were his first points after going two games without a point, after going on a four-game point streak.

"It definitely felt good getting the monkey off the back. I'm a veteran player, and I hope can contribute to the team in the long run."

Page was also really impressed with how the team played.

"It was a good effort from all the boys, definitely brought our 'A' game. It just shows what we can do as a team. We played a full sixty minutes, there is no way we can play a better game than that. We just need to keep it going for the rest of the series and the rest of the playoff run."

Matt Davies earned four points as well with a goal and three assists. It was also James Rota's first game back since February 23.

"[Rota] was really good. There were times you could tell that he missed a long time, then there were other times where it looked like he didn't miss any time. He has fully healed."

The Dynamiters know that they can't expect to blowout the Leafs every game, and now need to readjust.

"We need to take it as a 0-0 mindset, we are not going to count on seeing the same Nelson team [that we saw tonight]," Stuart said, "but at the same time we are going to do the best to perform the same way we did tonight.

"We need to come to the rink tomorrow morning, treat it as a new day. When the puck drops tomorrow, tonight's game means absolutely nothing. It is a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series. The series hasn't really started, but it is a good first game for us."

The Leafs and Dynamiters play Game Two tonight at Kimberley's Civic Centre, game starts at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Kimberley Dynamiters vs Nelson Leafs Series Preview: Story

The Kimberley Dynamiters are going to the Kootenay Conference Finals for the fourth year in a row, second under head coach and general manager Derek Stuart's tenure. This time it is an unfamiliar Conference Final opponent, the Nelson Leafs.

In 2015, 2016, and 2017 the Nitro's played the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the Conference Finals, advancing twice.

"Our opponent is a team standing in the way of achieving our goal." Stuart said. "[Nelson] is a very worthy opponent. They have proved all year long that they are the best team in the division. It doesn't matter to us who our opponent is, in terms of our mental focus."

The last time the Nelson Leafs and Nitro's met in the playoffs was when both teams were a part of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League in 1998. The Nitro's swept the Leafs 4-0. And Stuart and assistant coach Jeff Keiver were players. Amazing how much has changed in 20 years.

The Nitro's have edged the Leafs 2-1 in the season series, however, the Leafs outscored the Nitro's 5-4. The last time the two teams met, the Leafs shutout the Nitro's 3-0. That shutout was the third of four in a row for Leafs goaltender Josh Williams who went on to set a KIJHL record for consecutive time without a goal allowed.

The Leafs do not have a single player with a point per game, as their scoring is spread out, and they are known for their suffocating defensive play. Leading the attack is Jack Karran with eight goals and two assists in 12 games; Nicholas Wihak also has 10 points in 12 games. On the back end, Michael LeNoury has chipped in offensively with 10 points too. Former Nitro, and now Leafs captain Sawyer Hunt has scored two goals and six assists in nine games.

"Nelson is probably the best defensive team in our conference." Stuart said. "It's not going to be easy, we are going to have to get to the net a lot better than we have in the first two rounds and get some ugly, greasy goals."

The Dynamiters have been electric during the playoffs, and goaltender Cody Campbell has been solid between the pipes. Campbell's 1.74 GAA and .931 SV% is top in the KIJHL this post season. The Nitro's have five players averaging a point or more a game: Brock Palmer, Bryce McDonald, James Farmer, Matt Davies, and Mason Palaga. Farmer leads the team in goals with six, and Palmer in assists with 12.

Stuart said that the team will be watching a lot of video to understand Nelson's habits, but then added, "We need to continue to play good team defence against Nelson, that is our number one priority. We need to make sure we keep our opponent under 30 shots."

The series opens this Friday at the Kimberley Civic Centre at 7:30 p.m. with Game Two in Kimberley on Saturday.

MATCH STICKS: Ryan Keilty remains on the teams injury list. Affiliate players Jackson Bohan and Erik Delaire have joined the team now that their major-midget seasons have finished.

Kimberley Dynamiters vs Nelson Leafs: Infographic

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Kimberley Dynamiters win 5-2 and eliminate the Columbia Valley Rockies

The City of Kimberley showed once again why the Kimberley Dynamiters are subculture to the community, as nearly 650 fans piled into the Kimberley Civic Centre on a Monday night to see Game Five between the Kimberley Dynamiters and Columbia Valley Rockies. A win by the Dynamiters, and they advance to the Kootenay Conference Finals for the fourth year in a row.

In typical small town fashion, the principal from a school in town, filled in to sing O Canada!

As expected, this game was tightly contested. The Rockies wanted to extend their season one more game, and the Nitro's wanted to avoid returning to Invermere Tuesday night.

Brandt Bertoia scored his fifth of the playoffs giving the Dynamiters a lead going into the first intermission.

But as expected, the Rockies came back. Their captain, Ryan Skytt, who was on a mission and a force on the ice, leveled the game at one apiece.

Moments later, Bryce McDonald passed the puck to James Farmer who redirected it in, 2-1 Nitro's.

The Rockies came back, again. This time it was Chase Hawkins scoring on the power play, 2-2. This was the first time this series that the Rockies scored more than a goal.

"[The Rockies] played really good. I am very impressed with all their games, they gave us a tough go, perhaps at times it was tougher than our players thought." Head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said. "They definitely had an answer and took the game to us at times."

After 40 minutes the game was knotted at two, and the stomach turning nervousness settled in at the Civic Centre.

"There was more desperation on our part [going into the third], which is something that we were hoping for right from the start of the game." Stuart said. "We needed to be more desperate in wanting to advance than they were wanting to extend their season."

"Our guys, like they have done all season, really stepped it up in the third."

After a scoreless 10 minutes in the third, Matt Davies scored his first goal of the playoffs, and his first 12 games - going back to the regular season.

"It was a big moment for me personally." Davies said, "It's been a long time coming and it was nice to see a bounce finally go my way here. Takes a lot of stress off my back for sure."

"We reassured Matt that he has been playing well the past month and a half." Staurt said. "Especially in the playoffs, he has been one of our better players night in and night out. It was good to see him get rewarded."

Davies then set up Nicholas Ketola with saucer pass, that Ketola buried, and all of sudden the Nitro's had doubled the Rockies score with 7:50 left to play.

The Rockies called a timeout shortly after the two minutes remaining mark, and the pulled their goalie. Davies, who found an extra gear this period, was able to score an empty net goal, his second goal of the night, and his third point.

Davies would receive the Home Star, as the Nitro's put an end to the Columbia Valley Rockies impressive post-season.

"I think we played a pretty solid game." Davies said "Obviously in playoffs every game has their ups and downs, but I think in the end we managed to control our emotions and found a way to get the job done."

Photo by Jonathan Righton
As is tradition, the two teams shook hands at centre ice. Then in classy fashion, fans at the Civic Centre applauded the Rockies for their effort as they left the ice, and then the Nitro's saluted the crowd, and the team and community celebrated advancing to the Kootenay Conference Finals for a fourth year in a row.

Looking back at the series, Davies felt the team learned an important lesson, "I think the biggest thing we learned was that we can still play our game against the bigger and more physical teams like the Rockies. We were able to match their physicality and showed that we're willing to do whatever it takes to get wins."

The Kimberley Dynamiters now prepare for the Kootenay Conference Finals this Friday as they host the Nelson Leafs at the Kimberley Civic Centre (more to follow on that series later).

Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Kimberley Dynamiters win one and lose one in Invermere

The Kimberley Dynamiters went into Invermere up 2-0 in the best of seven game series against the Columbia Valley Rockies.

The Dynamiters came out in a flurry in game three, firing a whopping 23 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but Rockies Ben Kelsch sealed the net for the first period. The Rockies also opened the scoring, and had their first lead of the series.

The Rockies held onto their lead until Nitro's Chase Gedny tied the game at one with a power play goal. The Nitro's got their second power play goal of the period from Mason Palaga.

In the third, the Nitro's added to their lead with a goal from Bryce McDonald.

The Nitro's would win 3-1, despite outshooting the Rockies 49-21. Head coach and general manager Derek Stuart felt that the team didn't bear down on their chances, he said by his count, the Nitro's had more than 20 chances, yet only scored three goals. He felt the team should have had more.

Cody Campbell made 20 saves, and Palaga was named the Away Star of the game.

The Dynamiters now held a 3-0 strangle hold on the series, and needed one more win to advance to the Kootenay Conference Finals.

The Nitro's had also established a pattern, a 5-1 win in Game One, 4-1 in Game Two, and 3-1 in Game Three, would Game Four be 2-1?

In a curious move, the Dynamiters started Adam Andersen in net. Stuart had explained in the past, that Andersen has become a '1B' goalie for the team, and he felt that it was time Andersen played in his first KIJHL playoff game.

Andersen did not disappoint. He made fantastic saves. The Rockies Davin Burton was able to sneak one past Andersen early in the first, but that was it.

Andersen even made one save in particular in the first that the goal judge, and webcast thought was in, but it wasn't. Stuart says that, that save helped motivate the team.

It was the second game in a row where the Rockies 'won' the opening period.

The Nitro's struggled to get shots and chances in the middle period, and continued to trail 1-0.

In the third, the Dynamiters began firing everything they had on Kelsch. But as was the struggle the night before, the Nitro's couldn't finish their chances.

The Rockies firmly held on to their one goal and shut out the Nitro's.

Andersen was named the Away Star making 19 saves in the loss, while the Rockies Kelsh was the Home Star making 34 saves, and being recognized as Hot in the KIJHL.

It has been a long time since the Nitro's were shut out in the playoffs, having to go back to the 2015 playoffs in Game Four against the Kamloops Storm, where they 4-0; but then went on to win the series in six games for the KIJHL title.

"It felt weird." Stuart said, as he recalled the rarity it is being shutout.

However, he says that his team is ready, and is looking for a strong start to the opening period in Game Five, because they don't want to play Tuesday in Invermere.

Game Five is Monday night at 7:30 at the Kimberley Civic Centre.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Kimberley Dynamiters squeeze out a win in Game Two to take a 2-0 series lead

The Kimberley Dynamiters have taken a 2-0 series lead with a 4-1 win against the Columbia Valley Rockies.

The Nitro's were able to jump to an early lead as Brock Palmer scored on the power play.

The Rockies', however, would not go away. They got a power play goal of their own by Tyler Nypower.

After 20 minutes the two teams were tied.

The goaltenders were busy in the second. Rockies' Ben Kelsch was making another bid for player of the game, and doing everything within his power to help the Rockies get back into the series. Nitro's Cody Campbell, was just as solid, as the Rockies' were trying to bounce back from last nights loss.

Forty minutes of play, and the game was still tied at one.

In the third, the Nitro's kept the Rockies' hemmed in their zone. As a result the Nitro's outshot the Rockies', and the Rockies' were called for many penalties, some of them controversial or inconsistent compared to earlier calls.

With the power plays, the Dynamiters Palmer began to cash in. He scored at the 15:39 finishing a passing play. He then completed his hattrick with a hard nose, and fearless play, as he dug for a rebound.

"I just want to score goals." Palmer said about being fearless as a smaller player, "Going to the net is the best place to be."

It was Palmer's second hattrick of his KIJHL career, his first of the playoffs.

"It was awesome." He smiled, and then recounted, "I had to go back and get my stick, and the crowd was all cheering and everything, so it felt pretty good."

Nicholas Ketola was on the receiving end of a pretty passing play, and with two minutes left, gave the Nitro's a huge three goal lead.

Campbell stopped 20 shots earning his sixth win of the playoffs, and Palmer - with the hattrick - was the Home Star of the game, and also recognized as 'Hot in the KIJHL'.

After the game, neither coach was really impressed with the full 60 minutes.

"It was a pretty ugly hockey game," Nitro's head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said, "both teams looked tired. In the third we pushed them a little bit more, speed wise, and made things more difficult on them."

"There comes a time when you figure out you don't have your 'A' game, tonight our 'B' game was good enough to get the job done. At the end of 60 minutes, that is all that matters."

Rockies head coach Wade Dubielewicz said,  "I thought we were OK. Ben Kelsch played an incredible game... I liked our effort, and our physicality a lot better tonight. Last night was a no show for us."

Both coaches were able to quickly identify an area they need to improve on going into Game Three in Invermere Friday.

"My team is like Jekyll and Hyde." Dubielewicz said about the Rockies consistency, "When we don't come to play the way we have to, we are not very good. That's what you saw last night. When we come to compete and want to be hard to play against, we can play with anyone. If we put everything together, we are a good team."

For Stuart, he wanted to address the sloppy play, "We need to manage the pucks better, especially in the neutral zone. Tonight was very sloppy, there were a lot of turnovers between our blueline and their blueline."

The Dynamiters now have a 2-0 series lead on the Rockies with the series going to Invermere for Game Three and Four on Friday and Saturday.

"It is going to get harder and harder going into their rink." Stuart said "Down two, I assume [The Rockies] are going to come harder than we have seen them yet. It is definitely going to be a difficult task."

Stuart added, "We need to reset, and take a day off tomorrow (Thursday). We are going to watch video of the last two games we played there, those were two of our better road games this season. I think we will be ready to go."

As for Dubielewicz, he is aware of the task that the Rockies' now have, "Now we are down 2-0, behind the eight-ball, we have got to get back to our familiar rink and get back on board."

"We are not going to look too far forward, but we are definitely a confident group heading home."

Game Three is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Invermere's Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena.

MATCH STICKS: The Nelson Leafs have taken a 2-0 series lead on the Castlegar Rebels with two overtime wins. The Osoyoos Coyotes have a 2-0 series lead on the Kelowna Chiefs. The Revelstoke Grizzlies and 100 Mile House Wranglers have split the first two games.