What was on the verge of being a one-sided affair turned into a nail-biter Sunday evening at the Kimberley Civic Centre as the Dynamiters and Fernie Ghostriders went to battle once again in KIJHL action.
Despite battling back from a 5-1 deficit, the Nitros didn’t have enough left for a third-period comeback as the Ghostriders held on for a 6-4 victory.
“We pride ourselves on trying to be the better team in third periods,” said Nitros head coach Jerry Bancks Sunday.
“It was good that we came back. But I thought we kind of handed it to them in the first and second period — not enough guys doing what we need to do for us to win. [Fernie] is a good team. They’re older and if you give them a scoring chance, they’re going to bury it. Our mistakes were big mistakes and they took advantage of it.”
After Dynamiters forward Eric Buckley opened the scoring with a power-play marker midway through the first period, Sam Plaquin and Aaron Neufeld responded for the visitors as Fernie took a 2-1 lead to the dressing room after 20 minutes.
Doan Smith, scored the only goal of the second period to give Fernie a 3-1 advantage. The 19-year-old native of Duchess, Alta., went on to register two more goals in the third period to complete the hat trick and added an assist for a four-point performance.
Smith opened the third period with two power-play tallies to give the Ghostriders a commanding 5-1 advantage before 10 minutes had expired and it looked as though the night was over for the Dynamiters.
With nothing more to lose, Buckley floated at centre ice despite his team skating on the penalty kill. After taking a long stretch pass, the pesky Nitros forward took the puck hard to the net before Jordan Busch followed to clean up the garbage, making it 5-2.
The comeback was on.
Less than three minutes later, newcomer Lincoln Lane deposited a rebound past Ghostriders goaltender Brandon Butler on the power play to bring the hosts within two. Suddenly, the Dynamiters only trailed 5-3.
With the clock quickly wearing down, Dynamiters captain Jason Richter stuffed another rebound past Butler, once again on the power play, and the home team was back in it, trailing 5-4 with 2:53 remaining in regulation.
Unfortunately for the hosts, that’s as close as they would get.
“We were slow coming out the gate. We were slow all game until the last couple minutes,” Richter said Sunday night. “We realized we play them [Monday]. We’ve got to man up and start playing. That’s when our effort really picked up.”
With goaltender Tyson Brouwer on the bench for the extra attacker and Fernie captain Dylan Robertson serving a slashing minor for the final 1:53 of regulation, the Nitros were unable to capitalize.
Ghostriders defenceman Evan Reid blocked a point shot in the dying moments, before chasing down the puck at centre ice and depositing it into the empty net to round out the scoring.
The offensive outburst from Smith, Fernie’s leading scorer, vaulted him to the top of the KIJHL scoring charts. Smith, who came to the Ghostriders from the Columbia Valley Rockies earlier in December, now has 49 points (28G, 21A) to lead the KIJHL in scoring. Osoyoos Coyotes forward Aaron Azevedo (17-30-47) sits second in league scoring.
The Dynamiters and Ghostriders won’t get a break from one another as they get right back to it Monday night at the Fernie Memorial Arena.
“It’s a really good test for our guys,” Bancks said. “Resiliency is a really big word and what you like to see. A bounce back [Monday] — I would be surprised if we don’t play one of our better games [Monday].”
With Sunday’s win, the Ghostriders (25-5-1-2, 53 points) have built a 10-point advantage in the Eddie Mountain Division. The Golden Rockets (19-13-0-5, 43) sit second while the Dynamiters (18-13-1-3, 40) remain third.
“We’re definitely going to go in there with a lot of confidence [Monday],” Richter said looking ahead to the rematch against Fernie. “We know we can play with them. We can score goals against them. We just have to defend better.
“We just have to play harder, play better in our own zone by playing man-on-man. We’ve got to take the body more…That’s definitely going to be a focus.”
Puck drop between the Nitros and Ghostriders is slated for 7:30 p.m. Monday night.