Following a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Fernie Ghostriders Fright night, Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks said his team didn’t come prepared to play. And with that assessment, he issued a challenge to his KIJHL-leading squad with time winding down on the regular season schedule.
“We didn’t come out prepared to play and once you’ve clinched, it takes a lot of character to play those games where you don’t have anything on the line,” Bancks said Tuesday.
“When you respect players and kids in the group as much as I do… I have so much respect for them and I knew I could challenge them and that they would respond.”
With the Eddie Mountain Division title already under wraps, the Dynamiters had clinched home-ice advantage through the opening two rounds of the KIJHL post-season prior to Friday’s home loss to the rival Ghostriders.
Dan Burgess, Keagan Kingwell and Evan Reid all scored first-period goals for Fernie, before Justin Peers added another in the second period to give the Ghostriders a commanding 4-0 advantage.
Though George Bertoia and Keenan Haase responded in the second period for the Nitros, it wasn’t enough as Fernie claimed a 4-2 win.
On the road and faced with responding to their coach’s challenge, the Dynamiters visited the Beaver Valley Nitehawks Saturday night , scraping out a 4-3 victory in double overtime.
Goaltender Tyson Brouwer turned aside a whopping 50 shots, while veteran Sawyer Hunt posted three points, including the overtime-winning goal.
With a busy weekend on the schedule, the Dynamiters wrapped up the Family Day long weekend with a Monday visit to Fernie.
Once again, Brouwer was his usual self, blocking all 30 shots sent his way in a 2-0 shutout victory.
The goose egg goes into the books as Brouwer’s league-leading seventh shutout and league-leading 29th triumph of the 2015-16 KIJHL season.
Veteran Jared Marchi tallied the game-winning goal on the man advantage during the second period of play and Eric Buckley iced the victory with an empty-net effort late in the penalty-filled affair.
At the end of the afternoon, the Nitros had handed the host Ghostriders a total of nine power-play opportunities.
Rookie forward Austyn Moser was ejected from the game after incurring a five-minute major for checking from behind on Ghostriders forward Ryan Kennedy. Bancks expects Moser, a native of Taber, Alta., to see a two-game suspension for the play.
“He certainly deserved the five-minute penalty, but he certainly didn’t go looking,” Bancks said. “He was chasing the guy down the wall and the guy turned back on him just as he hit him. It was unfortunate.
“I like the class [Moser] showed. He stayed down with the kid. You could tell he was very remorseful. We don’t see that enough in hockey.”
Looking back on three games in four nights, Bancks is pleased to come away with four of a possible six points, especially considering the response his charges showed following Friday’s challenge.
“I thought the young guys stepped up and played a great game in Beaver Valley and Fernie,” Bancks said. “It’s all part of a process. You need to lose and have a little bit of desperation sometimes to improve as a team. I was thrilled we were able to do that.”
Monday’s victory in Fernie pushes the Dynamiters to a KIJHL-best record of 37-7-0-4 (78 points). Having already clinched the Eddie Mountain Division and home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the post-season, next on the docket for Bancks’ crew is to clinch the Kootenay Conference title.
Sitting 10 points ahead of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (31-9-3-3), one more Kimberley victory will assure home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of the post-season.
The KIJHL regular season title remains up for grabs with the Nitros and Osoyoos Coyotes (35-9-1-1, 72 points) in contention.
The Nitros have four games remaining on the slate, while the Coyotes have six games to do.
Next, Kimberley travels to face the Spokane Braves (8-35-0-4), winners of two straight, before returning home for another date with the Ghostriders (26-17-0-4) Saturday evening at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
From there, the Dynamiters wrap up the season by hosting the Golden Rockets (4-39-1-3) Feb. 19 before travelling to Fernie Feb. 20.