The Kimberley Dynamiters and Fernie Ghostriders playoff series is undoubtedly a fan favourite and two games in, it has lived up to the hype.
In game one on Friday night, the Nitros started the series with a ‘KABOOM’, as they shocked the Fernie Ghostrider 8-3. In the sequel, the ‘Riders rallied and won 4-2.
“Credit to them, they smelled blood in the water,” said Ghostriders head coach and general manager Craig Mohr on the first game. “We just didn’t have a good bounce back when they scored, we kind of got on our heels […] maybe it was playoff shell shock.”
The first period went as anticipated for a Kimberley-Fernie series and it was close scoring. After 20 minutes, the Dynamiters held a 2-1 lead, with goals from Tyler Van Steinburg and Matt Davies.
It was in the middle frame — a span of 70 seconds — that defined the game.
At 3-2 for Kimberley, the game was 4-on-4, and the Dynamiters took advantage of the extra room. Devon Langelaar, Joe Karpyshyn and Cody Lassiter all scored in a row.
Down 6-2, the shell-shocked ‘Riders changed their goalie and while they tried to make the game respectable with their third goal, Cooper Page and Van Steinburg responded, for a final score of 8-3.
Cody Campbell made 25 saves for his first KIJHL playoff win.
“We can’t get into a track meet with Kimberley or else we are going to be on the track,” Mohr said. “Which is what we found out in game one.”
The Ghostriders then changed from their black to red jerseys and altered their game style on Saturday.
“We’ve got to get back to playing our game, that’s chipping and chasing, going north and south, finishing checks,” Mohr said. “We have to play our gritty style of game.”
And that’s just what Fernie did in game two on Saturday night. Brandon Nemes gave the ‘Riders a 1-0 lead after an intense first period.
The battle for ice continued in the second period. Only the Ghostriders were able to capitalize on their scoring chance in the middle frame, as Ty Abbott scored. ‘Riders goalie, Brendan Henderson put on a clinic after being chased from the net the night before. Karpyshyn then scored and the Dynamiters were able to close the gap, but the ‘Riders improved their pushback and answered with a goal of their own 62 seconds later.
Franco Colapaolo got the Nitros back to within one but with time ticking away, Keelan Saworski gave the Riders a 4-2 lead with 58 seconds left.
The Nitros pulled the goalie, but this game would end in Fernie’s favor.
“It’s the old cliché [but] you want to get the split on the road and give yourself a chance to go back into your rink,” Mohr said. “[You can] use that home ice to get an advantage in the series.”
The Dynamiters, however, felt the sting of losing at home.
“I told them after the loss, to let it sting until midnight and then let it go,” Nitros head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said. “We can’t dwell on the past two games. Monday is a brand new game, and we have to treat it as a best-of-five now.”
Despite playing on the road, the Nitros are feeling confident about Monday and Tuesday in Fernie.
“Our players are ready for their arena.” Stuart said “We have done well in their rink, even though I know the results don’t show that. We are very confident in that arena.
“If they had outplayed us in their arena there would be cause for concern but it’s quite the opposite. We controlled the game physically and scoring-chance-wise in three of the four times we’ve played there.”
Then taking it another level further, Stuart recalled the last game of the regular season.
“If you can win in Beaver Valley, you can win anywhere,” he said. “We are really confident heading into Fernie on Monday.”
The Ghostriders’ bench boss is taking a calmer approach.
“Once the first two games are over the nerves are out, and it is going to settle into what a playoff series normally is,” Mohr said. “Usually when it’s Kimberley and us, it becomes a grind, I see this one being no different.
“I think we have to enjoy and embrace it. We have to appreciate and have fun with the crowd and use that to our advantage.”
“It’s such a fun series,” Mohr continued. “When you get two teams that are rivals and are both such good hockey teams, it just makes for fun hockey.”
Game three of the series takes place tonight and game four happens Tuesday night. Both games are in Fernie and start at 7:30 p.m. The series then returns to Kimberley on Thursday at 7 p.m.
MATCH STICKS: Brandt Bertoia was named the Kimberley Dynamiters regular season February Player of the Month. In five games, Bertoia scored six goals and picked up two assists, while being named the team’s star of the game twice. Chase Miller was named the Eddie Mountain Division Rookie of the Year after scoring 51 points in 41 games.