Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks isn’t thinking about the playoffs just yet, but his squad will get a taste of what the post-season might feel like when the Eddie Mountain Division-leading Fernie Ghostriders visit the Kimberley Civic Centre Saturday night.
“Saturday night will be a lot like a playoff game in terms of the energy and the excitement,” Bancks said Wednesday afternoon.
The Dynamiters and Ghostriders combine to form one of the most electrifying rivalries in the KIJHL and the Dynamiters coach isn’t the only one who knows it.
“The Fernie and Kimberley rivalry has always been fun and this year, we’ve got two good teams out there,” Ghostriders head coach/general manager Craig Mohr told Sara Moulton of the Fernie Free Press Thursday afternoon. “When rivalry teams are both good, you know it’s going to be some exciting hockey.
“Through all the years, there’s been some bad blood and things said. I’ve never seen another rivalry as big as this during my time playing or as a coach. You know who you’re playing and you know the crowd is going to be jacked up.”
With three games in the books between the clubs so far this season, there’s no shortage of fuel for this fire. The Ghostriders hold a decisive edge in the season series with a mark of 2-0-1-0, but the Dynamiters haven’t exactly made life easy on their Eddie Mountain Division rival.
“We have played [Fernie] extremely close every game we’ve played them,” Bancks said. “If we play our game, we can come out on the good side and that’s pretty much it — focus on what we do.”
In case you’ve missed any of the action to this point, let’s rewind a little bit to get you up to speed.
The two clubs opened the season with a pair of games at the Fernie Memorial Arena.
The Ghostriders squeaked out a 2-1 victory Nov. 7, courtesy a two-point performance from since-departed winger Josh McCulloch. The native of Calgary joined the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League earlier in December.
Back in Fernie Nov. 22, the Nitros were sparked by a two-goal, three-point performance from Jared Marchi in a 4-4 draw. With the tie, the Dynamiters became the first KIJHL team this season to escape the Fernie Memorial Arena without a loss.
As it stands, Kimberley is one of only two teams to have held the Ghostriders from a win in their own rink. Fernie is 14-0-1-1 on home ice with their only loss coming to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, a 5-4 double-overtime defeat Dec. 13.
In the most recent meeting between Kimberley and Fernie, Justin Peers and Cole Keebler tallied three points apiece as the Ghostriders claimed a 4-1 triumph Nov. 28 at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
“Coming into the season, all the talk was Fernie, Fernie, Fernie,” said Nitros rookie forward Keenan Haase after the 4-1 setback. “Coming to play these games is fun and exciting, even in Fernie and especially here with all the fans that showed up. It was a great atmosphere and gets you really pumped up.”
Saturday’s tilt represents the final contest for both teams before a brief holiday hiatus. If meeting once before the holiday season wasn’t enough, the two teams dive back into the rivalry immediately following the holiday break. The Dynamiters host the Ghostriders Dec. 28 before travelling across the mountains for a rematch Dec. 29 in Fernie.
With the Eddie Mountain Division remaining one of the tightest in the KIJHL, the next three games are huge for the Dynamiters (17-12-1-3), who remain three points behind the second-place Golden Rockets (18-12-0-5) and a mere two points ahead of the fourth-place Creston Valley Thunder Cats (16-12-1-3).
Should the Dynamiters be able to steal six points from the Ghostriders (23-4-1-2), the already muddy Eddie Mountain Division would become even muddier.
Fernie sits atop the perch with 49 points, 11 ahead of the third-place Nitros.
“Obviously, you have to respect their record but just play our game,” Bancks said. “If we do that, I think we’ll be fine. Our guys like playing Fernie and I’m looking forward to it.”
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday night at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
The last time the two teams met, more than 700 raucous fans filled the barn in Kimberley.