He may not wear No. 65 on the back of his sweater.
And he may not be from Sweden.
But on Friday night, 20-year-old Kimberley Dynamiters defenceman Justin Meier led his team to a 5-4 overtime victory over the Golden Rockets by doing his best impersonation of Erik Karlsson, Norris Trophy-winning blue-liner for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.
“He has a tendency to maybe get a little carried away with the aggressive part of the game and we’re trying to encourage him to use his skills and be more of an offensive-type player,” said head coach Jerry Bancks of Meier following Friday’s win.
“Before the third period, I said, ‘You’ve got to play. No penalties. We’ve got to come back and win this game.’ He’s got lots of potential.”
Meier, a second-year Dynamiter hailing from Taber, Alta., listened to the wise words from his coach.
The Nitros forced overtime by erasing a two-goal Rockets lead in the third period before Meier made his impact early in the extra period.
“I saw [Austyn] Moser going down the side and the middle was kind of open,” Meier said Friday night, recounting his game-winning tally. “There was a guy there, but I just followed Jerry’s advice and broke hard to the middle. I just drove the net. The rest is history.”
History indeed. Meier deposited the puck past Rockets goaltender Brody Nelson, extending the Dynamiters winning streak to seven games.
A win is a win, but Friday’s victory wasn’t an easy one for the Dynamiters as they were forced to erase a pair of two-goal deficits.
“We had a terrible practice [Thursday] and it showed tonight,” Bancks said. “We were fortunate to get two points and dug deep and showed some good tenacity at the end. But if we play like that next weekend or [Saturday] night, we’ll be in trouble.
“Our preparation during the week wasn’t as good as it needed to be. I told them, I like doing practices. I’d rather do practices than games because a game should be a celebration of all the hard work you did during the week. Then you go out and you play.”
Discipline cost the Dynamiters in the second, helping boost the Rockets to their second two-goal advantage of the night.
First, forward Trey Doell got tangled with Rockets defenceman Kyran Karol at centre ice. Doell dropped the mitts in quick fashion and took Karol down in an instant.
Both were tossed from the game on account of fighting majors, but Doell was tagged with an additional minor penalty for instigating the ordeal.
On the ensuing man advantage Rockets forward Terix Fischer-Kobes capitalized to put Golden in front 3-2.
Shortly after, Meier was sent to the sin bin to serve a two-minute minor for boarding. This time, it was Matthew Thiessen inflicting the damage and the Rockets took a 4-2 lead to the dressing room after two periods of play.
In the third period, Nitros defenceman Jordan Busch sent a seeing-eye point shot towards Nelson, finding a hole to get the hosts within one goal.
With 3:15 to play and Rockets defenceman Travis Kelley serving a tripping minor, a trio of Dynamiters vets did what they do best — move the puck smoothly and efficiently.
Busch to Marchi to Buckley to the back of the net.
That’s all it took late in the third period to even the score as the three 20-year-olds combined for a nice tic-tac-toe play on the man advantage before Buckley tallied his sixth goal of the season to force overtime.
Between the pipes, Nelson made his return to Kimberley, earning the start for the Rockets.
He was a difference maker through 40 minutes, stoning Jared Marchi and Sawyer Hunt, while making a handful of other big stops to keep the visitors in control.
Nelson spent the final portion of the 2014-15 season with the Dynamiters, helping the club to its 2015 KIJHL championship.
“I really tip my hat to Brody Nelson, I thought he had an outstanding game,” Bancks said of his former puck-stopper. “We knew he was good.”
During the off-season Nelson was dealt to the Revelstoke Grizzlies where he played two games before landing in Golden.
The Rockets blasted out to a quick 2-0 lead early in the first period as Tanner Wit and Kyle Rosolowski combined to chase Nitros starting goaltender Mitch Traichevich less than six minutes into action.
“Not that happy with our start,” Bancks said. “I don’t think Mitch saw either one of [those goals]…You could just tell it wasn’t going to be his night, but you can’t pull a forward, you can’t pull a ‘D’ man, but you can pull a goalie. He kind of bore the brunt of how horrible our start was.
“[The Rockets] played a good game. For a team that’s had the rough start they’ve had, I give them a lot of credit.”
After Tyson Brouwer came on in relief of Traichevich, the home team clawed back into the contest.
Rookie Korbyn Chabot scored a power-play marker to get things started before newcomer Devon Langelaar sent a hot shot from the point through Nelson to tie the game 2-2. The goal was Langelaar’s first as a Kimberley Dynamiter.
Brouwer earned his league-leading eighth victory of the season, turning aside 19 shots for the Dynamiters.
At the other end, Nelson made 34 saves, helping the Rockets earn their first point of the season, albeit in a losing cause.
The Dynamiters (10-1-0-2, 22 points) and Rockets (0-10-0-1, 1) get right back to it Saturday night, with the Eddie Mountain Division rematch set for 7 p.m. at the Golden Arena.
Montana’s Cookhouse Three Stars of the Game:
1) D Justin Meier, Kimberley Dynamiters (GWG) 2) D Jordan Busch, Kimberley Dynamiters (1G, 2A) 3) F Eric Buckley, Kimberley Dynamiters (1G, 1A)