It’s a luxury for any hockey team to be able to play poorly but still find a way to win.
If you were to ask Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks, that’s exactly what he saw Friday night as his squad (22-3-0-3) doubled up the Nelson Leafs (13-15-0-1) by a 4-2 margin in KIJHL action at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
“It’s nice when you’re good enough that you can play, in my opinion, not well and still win the game,” Bancks said Friday. “We had too many passengers. I don’t think we were skating like we needed to. I don’t think we forechecked like we needed to. [The Leafs] gave us a good lesson of a good, hard forecheck.
“[Our team] wanted it easy. It’s never going to be easy. We’re the defending champions.”
After battling to a 1-1 draw through 40 minutes of play the Leafs put that good, hard forecheck on display early in the third period as Blair Andrews converted on yeoman’s work below the goal line from Brendan Smith and Jordan Davie.
Andrews’ tally, which came 7:07 into the final period, gave the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Dynamiters forward Keenan Haase must have been paying attention from the bench as he watched the Leafs get the edge, because he found a way to tie the game 2-2 only 19 seconds later.
“That was the first time all night we had our first two forecheckers skate full speed,” Bancks said of the Haase tally. “It led to a goal. It’s nice we got that goal and bounced back, but it’s sad to think it was that late in the game before we actually had that happen.”
From there, captain Jason Richter did what he does best, turning a couple Nelson defenders into pretzels before skating in alone and burning Leafs goaltender Patrick Ostermann for what went on to stand as the game-winning tally.
“We came out hard in the third period,” Richter said Friday. “Our first and second periods weren’t too good. We came out a little slow, but good teams find a way to win and that’s what we did.”
Trevor Van Steinburg put the game on ice with 2:39 to play as he put the finishing touches on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence featuring Eric Buckley and Haase.
Haase, the big California kid, rounded out his night with first-star recognition after posting a goal and two assists.
“[In] the third period, we kind of regrouped and settled ourselves down, got back to the basics and played our game,” said Haase, the native of Mission Viejo, Calif., Friday night.
“We can’t drop to [the opposition] level. We saw the score from the [Leafs’] last game and they had lost 9-0. When we see that, we want an easy game and we come in thinking we’ll run the board, get goals and then go home. But it’s not like that. We’ve got to put in a full 60 [-minute effort].”
Nitros defenceman Jordan Busch opened the scoring in the first period with Leafs defenceman Kyle Chernenkoff serving a cross-checking minor.
Unleashing a heavy shot from the point, the 20-year-old native of Edmonton found a hole in the armour of Ostermann, squeezing the puck through the seven-hole for a 1-0 Kimberley lead.
Leafs defenceman Kyle Chernenkoff made his third trip penalty box in the second period. As the minor to the Nelson blue-liner expired, Nitros forward-turned-defenceman Trey Doell was sentenced for interference to give the Leafs their first man advantage of the evening.
On the ensuing power play, Leafs defenceman Austin Anselmo pounced on a rebound in front of the net, popping it past a helpless Tyson Brouwer to tie the game 1-1 with 13:34 to go in the middle period.
Midway through the period, Kimberley newcomer Brendon Benson blocked a point shot off the top of his skate and limped to the bench in visible discomfort. After making a short return to the ice late in the period, Benson once again limped off in the dying seconds and made his way straight to the Dynamiters dressing room.
Benson toughed it out for the rest of the night, finishing his Dynamiters debut with two assists.
“It was a credit to him that he came back and kept playing,” Bancks said of Benson. “He took a really good one on the foot, right on the tongue, which is the worst place to get hit.
“Up until then, I thought he was one of the best players on the ice and showed us what he’s got — good poise on the power play, a great shot. He’ll be a big asset.”
Brouwer made 17 saves for the Dynamiters to earn his KIJHL-leading 17th win of the season.
At the other end of the rink, Ostermann was good on 26 of 30 shots for the Leafs.
Next up, the Dynamiters head to Creston for a mid-week match up with the Thunder Cats on Wednesday evening.
Notes: On the other side, former Dynamiters defenceman Zach Morey made his return to Kimberley as a member of the Nelson Leafs. Morey was dealt to Nelson Tuesday night…