It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
At least that’s what Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks said looking forward to the next month for the Nitros.
What exactly is he referring to?
When the puck drops Friday night, it will mark the return to Kimberley of a KIJHL rivalry that has been caged within the confines of the Fernie Memorial Arena thus far in the 2014-15 season. The Dynamiters and Fernie Ghostriders meet at the Civic Centre for the first time at 7 p.m. Friday night.
“The next month is one of the most fun months in the league, other than playoffs,” Bancks said Monday afternoon. “That’s how we set it up.
“It’s a ton of fun.”
Including Friday’s tilt between the Nitros and Ghostriders, the two Eddie Mountain Division rivals will face-off four times over the course of the next month.
As it stands, the Ghostriders hold the edge in the season series on the strength of a 2-1 victory Nov. 7. The two clubs battled to a 4-4 tie Nov. 22.
Friday night, the Ghostriders will be without leading scorer Josh McCulloch, who is out indefinitely due to an upper-body injury. The 18-year-old Calgary native tallied the game-winning goal along with a helper in the Ghostriders lone victory against Kimberley earlier this month.
With a mark of 10-2-0-1 on home ice, the Dynamiters hope to utilize some Kimberley confidence to even the season series with their Kootenay country rivals.
“It’ll be good to see them in our rink,” Bancks said. “We’ve played quite well in [their rink]. But with Fernie, I don’t think it really matters whether it’s home or away for them or us. Fans come down and the crowds are good.
“It’s exciting. It’s what a rivalry is all about. I’m anxious to see us at home against them.”
The Dynamiters and Ghostriders hooked up at the Civic Centre once during pre-season play this fall, with the Nitros battling to a 5-2 victory. As much as a pre-season win might be nice for the mojo, it matters none in the standings once puck drops on the regular season.
After starting the season hot, the Dynamiters have cooled off, struggling to a 2-6-1-0 record in the month of November, which has seen them venture out of town for six games.
The Nitros look forward to a nearly even split of home and road games through the month of December, with five games at the Civic Centre and four games on the road, including two in Creston, one in Fernie and one south of the border against the Spokane Braves.
“You kind of break the season down into sections,” Bancks said. “We’ve got a section from now through the Christmas holidays that is a lot of fun. It’s exciting for our kids. That’s kind of as far as we’re going to think. We’re not going to go beyond that and worry too much about January.”
Though Bancks and his squad won’t worry about it just yet, the Dynamiters ring in the new year with a drastic split between home and road games, leaving the comfort of the Kimberley Civic Centre for eight of 11 contests come January 2015.
“What it does is it lightens you up a little bit in February before you start the playoffs,” Bancks said of the ominous January schedule. “I’d rather suffer through that [road schedule in January].”
With a record of 3-8-1-1 on the road, December could prove critical in the race for the KIJHL playoffs.
In the meantime, the Nitros will enjoy the comforts of home.
After all, that’s the best place to be this time of year.