It was only fitting that the Kimberley Dynamiters used another one-goal victory to get past the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in Game 5 of their Eddie Mountain Division semifinal Thursday night.
With 673 people packing the Kimberley Civic Centre, the Nitros and Thunder Cats treated fans to another nail-biting affair that saw the home team come out on top with a 2-1 victory and 4-1 series triumph.
“We didn’t give up a lot of breakaways and two-on-ones. They kept a good high guy, we kept a good high guy and that’s kind of what the series became,” said Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks Thursday night. “That’s why the scores were as low as they were. I’ve never seen anything like it in Junior B.
“All three goalies that played were phenomenal. You didn’t give the other team much and they didn’t give us much. We got some power-play goals and they didn’t. That’s probably the biggest difference.”
By far the lowest-scoring first-round series in the KIJHL playoffs, the Dynamiters held the Thunder Cats to a mere four goals over the course of the five-game series.
“Tyson Brouwer — he keeps us in most of our games,” said Dynamiters captain Jason Richter. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be able to keep the goals down.
“But we have guys out there who are willing to block shots, no matter what. We have guys 10 seconds left in the game, we have guys five seconds left in the game laying down to block shots. That’s just the kind of team we are.”
It was a defensive series for the ages that featured a three-way goaltending stand-off between Nitros netminder Tyson Brouwer and the Thunder Cats duo of Brock Lefebvre and Mitch Martell.
The Nitros managed nine goals over five games, one of which was a buzzer-beating empty-net tally in Game 4. To say offense was at a premium in this series would be a massive understatement.
“When your team believes that much and puts that much on the line, to come up with a series win like that — Creston was a very good team in this series,” Brouwer said Thursday. “There was no easy game in this series. Credit to them and credit to the boys for finishing them off in five.”
In all, the Dynamiters scored six of their nine goals with the man advantage, while the Thunder Cats were blanked on the power play.
“[Assistant coach] Jeff Keiver has a great power-play set up. We practice it quite a bit,” Richter said. “I guess a lot of our power-play guys have a lot of confidence out there. Pucks go our way, bounces go our way on the power play and luckily we score.”
Game 5 went almost the same as each of the four games previous to it.
A scoreless first period with combined scoring chances countable on one hand led to a second period in which one team cashed in on its few opportunities.
Thursday night, it was the Dynamiters special teams doing the damage once again as Keenan Haase scored an unassisted power-play goal to open the festivities before Jesse Wallace followed up 48 seconds later with a short-handed tally.
The quick strikes gave the Dynamiters a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes.
Thunder Cats forward Nicholas Kovacik cut the advantage in half 5:10 into the third period. Despite immense pressure with Martell on the bench for the extra attacker in the final two minutes of regulation, the Thunder Cats were unable to convert.
“It was the longest minute of my life, probably,” Brouwer said. “Just keep it out of the net. I didn’t want any negative thoughts in my head of what might happen. I don’t think anybody on the team did either and that’s why we were so successful.”
Brouwer finished the night with 26 saves to his name and wrapped the series with an astounding 0.78 goals-against average and 0.966 save percentage, having steered aside 113 of the 117 shots sent his way in five games.
With the series triumph, the focus turns to the Fernie Ghostriders, who dispatched the Golden Rockets in Game 5 of their division semifinal Wednesday night.
There isn’t much left to be said for one of the KIJHL’s deepest and most heated rivalries outside of the fact a best-of-seven series sets up to be electric.
“Blood runs deep,” Brouwer said. “It’s going to be another war out there. I know we’ll be ready for them.”
The schedule for the Eddie Mountain Division final between the Fernie Ghostriders and Kimberley Dynamiters is still to be determined.
“It’s so great for the community, that’s the biggest thing,” Bancks said of facing the Ghostriders. “There’s a lot of people here that you talk to before games, some of the seniors that have been coming here for years and years and year — you really want to get that series [Kimberley vs. Fernie] for them. Hopefully we can come out ahead.
“They’ve got a lot of older players. Their leading scorers are all fairly mature and older guys. You can’t give them chances. That was a disciplined effort by [the Thunder Cats]. They played their systems. I’m thinking it might be a little bit more wide open [against Fernie], but not on our part.”
Though most of the celebrating was saved for after the final buzzer and the traditional handshake, there were a few brief moments of recognition and jubilation prior to puck drop Thursday night as KIJHL Eddie Mountain Division vice-president Phil Iddon was on hand to present a handful of league and divisional awards.
Richter was honoured as KIJHL Top Scorer, Eddie Mountain Division Top Scorer and MVP.
“They’re all nice, but division MVP is one of the top ones,” Richter said. “I’ve been saying all year top scorer doesn’t really matter to me. It’s nice to get rewarded every once in a while, but if I didn’t have my team supporting me all the way, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Defenceman Jordan Busch was recognized as the Eddie Mountain Division’s Top Defenceman, while Coy Prevost was presented with the Eddie Mountain Division Rookie of the Year award.
“He’s so smart and he just settles things down so well,” Bancks said of Busch. “He’s not as dynamic in terms of going end-to-end or anything like that, but he settles things down and he’s really tough to beat one-on-one.
“He’s a big, strong, powerful kid that travels at a great rate of speed,” Bancks said of Prevost. “He’s not afraid to try anything. You never know what’s happening. It’s kind of funny. But he’s worked extremely hard and he’s had a great year, right from the start to the finish.”