Kimberley Dynamiters forward Braden Saretsky knew he needed to redeem himself Saturday night.
The native of West Kelowna took an ill-advised cross-checking penalty with time winding down in Game 3 of the Kootenay Conference final between the Dynamiters and Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
With a 3-3 score on the board and 1:10 to play in regulation, there was no better opportunity for the Nitehawks to claw back into the best-of-seven series, trailing 2-0 heading into Saturday’s contest.
The Dynamiters were able to kill off the two-minute minor through the dying moments of the third and the early stages of overtime before Saretsky took the stage once again.
Blazing down the left wing, the 18-year-old protected the puck against a check before sending a snapshot past Nitehawks goaltender Drake Poirier, bringing 975 fans to their feet at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
The overtime winner gave the Dynamiters a 4-3 victory and commanding 3-0 series lead.
“He’s been great throughout the entire playoffs,” Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks said of Saretsky Saturday night.
Including an electrifying game-winning goal, the 5-foot-11 freshly-minted winger put forth a hat-trick performance to fuel his team’s offense Saturday night.
“It’s probably the best feeling,” Saretsky said Saturday. “It’s either 3-0 or 2-1. We knew that third game was a huge one, so we knew we had to get it. Somehow we pulled it off again.”
On the road for the first time in the series, the Neil Murdoch Division-champion Nitehawks managed to outshoot the Dynamiters for the third consecutive game, but it wasn’t enough to get a win.
“Everything we did in the first period to generate — we outshot them 22-6 at one point — and we just stopped playing that game,” said Nitehawks head coach and general manager Terry Jones.
“We’re getting outworked at key times in the game. We’ve outshot them three games in a row, but when they’re in our zone, we’re not playing well enough defensively.”
The Nitehawks outshot the Dynamiters 30-22 in Game 3 and built a 2-0 lead before the midpoint of the first period courtesy goals from Ross Armour and Kyle Hope.
Saretsky got the hosts within one as he tallied his first of the night on the power play with 1:34 to go in the first period.
A scoreless second period was relatively uneventful outside of Armour being tossed from the game after hitting Dynamiters forward Coy Prevost from behind.
Armour, the Nitehawks leading scorer to his point in the post-season with four goals and 14 points, was tagged with a two-minute minor for checking from behind and given a game misconduct in the same shot.
Brady Revie tied the game 2-2 less than five minutes into the third period, sending a rebound past Poirier.
Moments later, Saretsky undressed Walker Sidoni before sending a laser past the Nitehawks netminder to give the Dynamiters a 3-2 lead.
With 8:00 left on the clock, defenceman Lyle Frank sent a long point shot towards Nitros goaltender Tyson Brouwer. The puck redirected on its way towards the net, finding a home in the top corner to tie the game 3-3.
Brouwer’s performance was once again of the difference-making variety as the native of Lethbridge turned aside 27 shots for his 11th win of the post-season.
“That’s a good team. We’re very fortunate to be where we are,” Bancks said. “Tyson Brouwer makes the coach look like a genius.”
At the other end, Poirier was victimized four times on 22 shots as he started his first game of the Kootenay Conference final.
Carson Schamerhorn was given the go to start Games 1 and 2 in Fruitvale, before Poirier came on in relief in Game 2.
Game 4 is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday night at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
Trailing 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, there isn’t much left to say for Jones and the Nitehawks.
“It’s do or die. There’s really not much else to say except that our backs are against the wall,” Jones said. “Cliche city. We just need to get one win. If we can get one win and get some momentum, I’d like to see where we could take it.
“I think that’s all we really need is the momentum of one win.”
For Bancks and the Dynamiters, they don’t intend on making a return trip to Fruitvale for a fifth game.
“It’s going to take the same effort with a better start,” Bancks said. “We’ve just got to stick to our plan. Their two goals in the first period were hockey-101 mistakes…It’s unacceptable. You can’t do that. It’s like giving them gifts. So we’ve got to fix that. We did as the game wore on [Saturday] but you can’t make those little mental mistakes.”