It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.
Jason Richter might not exactly be the proverbial fat lady, but Game 2 of the KIJHL Kootenay Conference championship didn’t end until he had the last word Wednesday night at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the final 20 minutes of play, the Kimberley Dynamiters erupted for four goals, including three strikes in the final 1:47. Captain Richter tallied the winner with only 47 seconds left on the clock, completing an electrifying comeback.
“It was outstanding, we haven’t been faced with that a lot this year, where we’ve had to come from behind, especially in the third [period],” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, following Wednesday’s victory. “Between periods, you tell the boys, ‘It’s up to you. Go do what you’ve got to do.’ They did it.
“It really shows good character on our part.”
With a 4-2 win, the Dynamiters staked out a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, shocking the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“This is definitely the biggest game of the year so far, the most exciting,” Richter said Wednesday after registering his fourth goal of the post-season. “This is the most together our group has been all year. Coming into the third period like that, it was pretty exciting. I thought we dominated the third, had a lot of momentum. It’s definitely one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been a part of.”
Outside of Richter’s winning marker, the Dynamiters received scoring from Sawyer Hunt, Tanner Wit and Trevor Van Steinburg.
At the other end, Sam Swanson and Bradley Ross combined to give the Nitehawks an early lead.
Between the pipes, Dynamiters goaltender Tyson Brouwer made 27 saves for his 10th victory of the post-season, while Tallon Kramer was arguably the best player on the ice for the visiting Nitehawks, steering aside 27 shots.
Before we get to Richter’s game-winning goal, we must first wind the tape back 60 seconds.
Having poured on the pressure in the third period, the Dynamiters still trailed 2-1 with precious seconds ticking off the clock.
Cruising deep into Nitehawks territory with less than two minutes remaining, Van Steinburg used speed down the right side and looked like he might carry towards the net, before sending a pin-point pass on to the stick of Wit at the top of the slot. With one look, the 19-year-old native of Calgary fired a laser to top corner, tying the game 2-2 with 1:47 remaining.
“Last game, there was a middle drive and I came over, got the same pass and I shot it right into the goalies’ chest,” Wit said Wednesday. “I had some nightmares about that. I came prepared and willing to do what it takes to get that done [in Game 2]. When Trev [Van Steinburg] gave me that pass, I took a quick glance up, saw the left side of the net and just ripped it as hard as I could.
“There’s nothing more spine-tingling or electric that I’ve ever been a part of. There are no words to describe it. The energy of the fans, the energy of the guys — I somehow knew we were going to pull that one out.”
Fans in the building seemed to be settling in for overtime, but Richter had other plans.
This time around, Trey Doell was the catalyst using his speed down the left side. Every coach will tell you it’s never a bad play to put the puck on net and that’s exactly what Doell did. Suddenly, as he’s done so many times before, Richter shot out of a cannon, pounced on the rebound and chipped it past the glove of Kramer.
The roof of the Kimberley Civic Centre must have exploded halfway to Skookumchuk as the 813 fans erupted when Richter snatched a 3-2 lead for his club.
“I just thought we were due,” Richter said. “We were getting lots of shots on that goalie. He’s obviously a pretty good goalie, but it was just about time something started going in there. We scored in bunches [in Game 1] and we knew if we got one tonight it would keep coming. We kept putting the pedal down there.”
Van Steinburg rounded out the scoring by depositing the puck into an empty net with only 22 seconds remaining, capping an absolutely wild finish as the Dynamiters stole one late from the Nitehawks.
“I really thought the turning point of the game was [Jace] Weegar’s breakaway,” said Terry Jones, head coach of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, following Wednesday’s contest. “He was clearly taken down, the net was taken off, he was in the corner. No penalty. They go down and score.
“I don’t know how that’s not a penalty. I thought it might have been a penalty shot.
“Hockey is a momentum game and this team is a momentum team. You can see they score in bunches and most teams are.”
On the play Jones references, Dynamiters defenceman Jordan Busch made a play on Weegar that resulted in the Nitehawks forward going down and a scoring opportunity being prevented. Only a replay will be able to determine whether or not Busch got the puck or swiped Weegar’s feet out first.
Shortly after that opportunity, the Dynamiters lugged the puck the length of the ice and Keenan Haase managed to fire one off Kramer and over his shoulder. As if time had frozen, the rubber trickled ever so slowly across the line with Sawyer Hunt getting a final touch, just enough to send the puck over. The marker got the Dynamiters on the board for the first time in the game, making it a 2-1 contest.
A fast and physical first period saw the Nitehawks jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Swanson was left all alone in the slot with plenty of time at his disposal. The 18-year-old forward took a quick look and a couple steps before firing a quick shot low past the blocker of Brouwer to give the visitors a 1-0 lead only 6:13 into the game.
With a hooking minor to Chabot set to expire, Ross sent a tough angle shot past Brouwer to give the Nitehawks a 2-0 advantage with 52 seconds left in the first period.
That score held up through 40 minutes, despite plenty of pressure from the home team.
“We worked hard, we did things simply, we forechecked intelligently and then as the game wore on we were less and less effective,” Jones said. “We gave up their diagonal cross-ice pass and it started to wear on our defence a little bit. It’s a lack of discipline on our forwards part to do the job and finish the job. It’s disappointing because we had the game.”
Kramer was sharp early and remained dialled in through the middle period, making a breakaway save off Buckley look like routine work. Next, he made a great reactionary save after a Kimberley point shot was redirected in tight.
“Huge bounce back, he’s been terrific for us and he’s a great leader in our room,” Jones said of his goaltender. “I’m sorry we couldn’t finish it for him, because he deserved to get that win tonight.”
Late in the period, Franco Colapaolo stormed down the right wing, filtering the puck towards the middle for James Farmer, who passed it off to Korbyn Chabot. Moving cross crease, Chabot looked to have an open net to fire at, but Kramer came flying across the blue paint from left to right, robbing the Nitros rookie of a glorious opportunity.
The two teams will take a breather Thursday, before the series shifts to Fruitvale for Games 3 and 4, Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The Dynamiters look to take a commanding series lead on the road, while the Nitehawks will seek to claw back into the proceedings on home ice at the Beaver Valley Arena.