Goaltender Brody Nelson has been a bit of a nomad to this point in the 2014-15 KIJHL season. After a trade from the Kamloops Storm brought him to the Kimberley Dynamiters, he finds himself back at home in the East Kootenay.
Tuesday night, Nelson’s journey continued at the Kimberley Civic Centre where he steered aside 30 shots, leading his new club to a 3-1 victory over the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
“It’s definitely been an adventure this season,” Nelson said after earning his first victory as a Nitro. “It’s not something I’ve been used to through the first two years of my career.
“Going to different teams has been a good experience and I’m definitely happy to end up here [in Kimberley].”
Nelson, a native of Invermere, spent his first two seasons in the KIJHL with his hometown club, the Columbia Valley Rockies.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound puck-stopper began his third KIJHL season with the Rockies, going 3-14-0 with a 4.06 goals-against average (GAA) and 0.879 save percentage (SP) before being dealt to the Kamloops Storm in December.
From there, he saw six games of action in the Doug Birks Division, going 4-2-0 with a 2.20 GAA, 0.912 SP and two shutouts.
If those numbers and Nelson’s performance Tuesday night are any indication, head coach Jerry Bancks wasn’t just blowing hot air when he said he felt his club had stolen Nelson from Kamloops in exchange for future considerations.
“He settled right in,” Bancks said of his new goaltender. “I thought he stole the game for us in the first period.”
For Nelson, the end result was worth smiling about, though his night didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts as Thunder Cats leading scorer Carson Cartwright victimized the newest Nitro netminder 47 seconds into the affair.
“It didn’t start off the way I wanted it to,” Nelson said with a laugh. “Everything after that just rolled on and it was a good experience.”
After Cartwright’s opening tally, Nelson weathered pressure from the visitors before Sawyer Hunt, who returned from injury Tuesday, deposited a Jordan Roy pass into a gaping cage to tie the game before the end of the first period.
For Hunt, it was his first game back since suffering an upper-body injury Dec. 5 in Creston.
Captain Jason Richter tallied his 33rd goal of the season, a power-play marker in the second period, to give the Nitros the lead and pull himself within one point of Fernie Ghostriders forward Doan Smith (29G-24A-53Pts) for the KIJHL scoring lead.
Defenceman James Jowsey rounded out the scoring, tallying the insurance marker midway through the third period.
Recently-signed blue-liner Justin Meier, also making his Dynamiter debut Tuesday, earned an assist on Jowsey’s goal. But his true impact was felt with a crushing hit on Thunder Cats forward Mason Mazur earlier in the second period.
“It was good to get the first one out of the way,” Meier said with a laugh. “It felt good.
“I like to bring a physical presence to my game.”
The native of Taber, Alta., shook the Civic Centre as he caught Mazur cutting through the slot with his head down. The heavy hit is something there hasn’t been much of in Kimberley this season, with a team built around speed and skill.
“He’s exactly what we needed,” Bancks said of Meier. “He’s going to have to rein himself in a bit, but I like the fact he is hard-nosed. We knew he’d be hard to play against and I really like having that back there [on the blue-line].”
Meier finished the night with 16 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct that accompanied a two-minute minor penalty for head contact. He acknowledged he hopes to keep those numbers down moving forward.
Nelson’s arrival stands to provide a bit of competition for Dynamiters workhorse Tyson Brouwer, who has seen action in 31 of his team’s 41 games this season.
“We’re right where we want to be. We’ve got a good goaltending tandem [with Brouwer and Nelson] and now they need to push each other,” Bancks said. “It’s got to be competitive. That’s exactly what we want. They’re both competitive kids. It’s great. I think it’s very healthy.”
With the Dynamiters victory, the see-saw battle for second place in the Eddie Mountain Division wore on, with Kimberley vaulting over Creston Valley once again. As of Tuesday night, the Nitros (22-15-1-3, 48 points) sit one point ahead of the Thunder Cats (21-14-1-4, 47) and 11 back of the first-place Fernie Ghostriders (28-9-1-2, 59) who fell to the fifth-place Columbia Valley Rockies (8-26-0-6, 22) in Invermere by a final score of 5-3. The Golden Rockets (20-16-0-5, 45) remain in the hunt as well, rounding out the divisional standings in fourth place.
Next on the itinerary for the Nitros is a weekend road trip through the Okanagan Division. Friday, the Dynamiters visit the KIJHL’s top club — the Osoyoos Coyotes (33-6-0-1, 67) — before moving on to face the league’s lowest-ranked club — the North Okanagan Knights (5-31-1-3, 14) — on Saturday.