Even without their captain Jason Richter, the Kimberley Dynamiters continue to prove they’re the best team in the KIJHL.
Saturday night, the Nitros (28-4-0-4) returned to action for the first time in 2016, collecting two more points, defeating the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (25-8-2-2) by a 4-2 margin.
“We had a great break over the Christmas holidays and we want to be even stronger in the new year here,” said Dynamiters defenceman Jordan Busch following Saturday’s triumph. “Nothing has changed. We still have a goal of winning the league and that’s what we’re focused on.
“It was a good test for us. [The Nitehawks] are well coached. They’re a good team. They play their systems pretty darn well. It was a good game, actually. It was exciting. It was a good one to get up for knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy one… It’s a good measuring stick just to see where we’re at.”
Busch was certainly up to the task Saturday, moving the puck with efficiency, collecting two assists along the way.
The Nitros jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second period as Eric Buckley put a rebound past Nitehawks goaltender Tallon Kramer to build upon Keenan Haase’s first-period power-play goal.
Blake Sidoni closed the gap midway through the second period before Sawyer Hunt respond with a power-play goal midway through the third period to restore the two-goal advantage for the home team.
Hunt finished the night with a goal and an assist, with his tally standing as the eventual game-winner after Nitehawks forward Tyler Ghirardosi scored on an unassisted effort with 6:50 to go in regulation.
“Busch had the puck at the point and he got a show away, but missed the net,” Hunt said, recounting his winning marker. “[Eric] Buckley battled behind the net and made a really good pass to me. [It was] an open net, so I hope I would’ve scored [there].
“We had a really good battle today and we didn’t know what they looked like [coming in]…Everybody needs to pull together and play hard — no stragglers. Everybody needs to play a team game, play within the systems.”
Veteran 20-year-old Jared Marchi rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal to sign, seal and deliver the decision.
In net, Nitros goaltender Tyson Brouwer made 33 stops on 35 shots to collect his league-leading 22nd victory of the campaign.
At the other end, Kramer was admirable for the Nitehawks, turning aside 27 of the 30 pucks sent his way.
Busch had a big night as a catalyst for the offense and it has been a big start to 2016 in more ways than one for the Edmonton-born blue-liner as he recently committed to the Concordia University of Edmonton men’s hockey program (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) for 2016-17.
“It’s awesome. I’ve been away from home for a few years now, so it’s going to be a nice little change, a little different, but I’m quite excited for it,” Busch said. “I had a few offers from other schools, but I thought staying at home with Concordia was the best option for me.”
While Busch is already looking forward to his college hockey with Concordia, he remains focus on the here and now, which means working to defend a KIJHL championship with the Dynamiters.
Next up for Busch and the Nitros is a Tuesday tilt with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats (21-10-1-2) at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
“We want to make our name in the league, make our name in the division,” Busch said. “Beating [the Thunder Cats] would be a big confidence booster to get a little momentum going if we win that. We’ve just got to focus hard…they play tight systems over there.”
Puck drop between the Thunder Cats and Dynamiters is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday.