Through two games of their best-of-seven Eddie Mountain Division semifinal, the Kimberley Dynamiters and Creston Valley Thunder Cats have done exactly what was expected — battled back-and-forth in a tightly-contested first-round playoff series.
“I’ve got a message in [the dressing room] on the wall that says, ‘Be in the moment. The only shift that matters is your next one,’” said Dynamiters head coach Jerrry Bancks on Saturday night. “That’s how it is in a seven-game series…I’ve always told them, you don’t get too high, you don’t get too low. You just keep playing. It can be a long series and we found out [Friday] it’s probably going to be a long series.”
As the number-two seed, the Nitros played host for Games 1 and 2 at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
Friday night, Game 1 went to the Creston Valley Thunder Cats after Connor Ward beat Dynamiters goaltender Tyson Brouwer in overtime for a 2-1 victory.
“Big picture, we put ourselves in a good spot,” said Thunder Cats head coach/general manager Jeff Dubois on Saturday. “Reality of this series was we knew we had to come into this buiding, which has been a real tough place for teams to get points and get a win. Obviously we would have been extra happy to go back-to-back, but we have a chance to go home where we’re pretty comfortable.”
After a scoreless first period, Thunder Cats forward Carson Cartwright got his team on the board in the second.
Nitros forward Jordan Roy scored early in the third period to force overtime, before Ward ended it.
In what’s turning out to be a goaltenders duel, Thunder Cats netminder Brock Lefebvre backstopped his team to a Game-1 win with a 30-save effort.
“We know the level we’re going to get out of Brock on a night-to-night basis,” Dubois said. “He’s been strong all season.
“Our confidence level in him is 100 per cent.”
Saturday, Brouwer was the star in a Game-2 shutout as the Nitros topped the Thunder Cats 2-0, drawing the best-of-seven series even at 1-1 heading into Game 3 Monday in Creston.
“Both nights, the goaltending [at both ends] was phenomenal,” Bancks said. “Tyson’s a winner. Tyson’s a battler.
“He’s at a bit of a disadvantage being a smaller goalie, but he’s also very quick. He gets down low, he moves and he seems to find [the puck]. He’s impressed me. He’s a great kid. He deserves what he’s getting.”
Dynamiters forward Coy Prevost opened the scoring with a power-play goal Saturday and his first-period tally stood as the eventual game-winning marker thanks to a 25-save shutout effort from Brouwer.
Nitros captain Jason Richter added the only necessary insurance on the man advantage in the second period, as the Dynamiters power-play went 2-for-4 Saturday.
Despite the loss, Lefebvre was stellar once again, turning aside 25 shots.
“[Saturday] was a 0-0 game at even strength,” Dubois said. “We look at it — we came in here and played, basically, six and a half periods over two days and gave up one even-strength goal against a very good team. You take that.”
The two teams get back to blows Monday with Game 3 at the Johnny Bucyk Arena in Creston.
Game 4 goes Tuesday in Creston. Puck drop for both games is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“You’ve got to log your minutes,” Bancks said looking forward to Game 3. “Every minute you can play is giving someone else a rest. That’s kind of how a seven-game series works. One day of rest then you’re right back at it for two straight. That’s the preparation, basically — get your rest and make sure you’re ready to be in the moment.”
With the series split through two games, there will be a Game 5, which is scheduled for Thursday night at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
“We showed over two games in a really tough building that we’re right there with them,” Dubois said. “The optimistic view is we take that back to our home ice, which is a smaller rink, and we finish a bit [around the net] and we’re ahead of them.”
If necessary, the teams return to Creston for Game 6 Friday night.