The Kimberley Dynamiters now have a stranglehold on their series with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats after winning games three and four in overtime.
Friday’s game at the Civic Centre had 917 fans out supporting the Nitros, with a sprinkle of traveling Cats supporters. All in attendance got their money’s worth.
Kimberley’s Matt Davies opened the scoring early in the first period on the power play as he rifled a shot over the shoulder of Creston goalie Brock Lefebvre.
It took the Thunder Cats until the midway point of the night to draw even, as the electric Ronnie Wilkie levelled the game. Minutes later Luke Kalenuik gave the Cats a 2-1 lead.
Before the middle frame ended, Cooper Page fired a puck at the net and Nic Herringer redirected it in to knot the game at two heading into the second intermission.
Nolan Kurylo gave the Dynamiters a lead for a short moment in the third period before Creston’s Cole Arcuri tied the game to force overtime.
The short 10-minute overtime didn’t solve anything but Kurylo took no time at all to fire in his second of the game after the ice was flooded.
A mere 32 seconds into the second overtime, James Farmer assisted Kurylo’s marker to keep his point streak alive and give the Dynamiters a 4-3 victory, and a 2-1 series lead.
Saturday’s game four reeked of desperation for the Cats, as they tried to avoid going down 3-1 in the series against the Nitros.
The Cats got on the board quickly, as once again, Ronnie Wilkie would score, silencing the 957 in attendance.
“Ronnie has stepped up and scored some big goals for us,” said Thunder Cats head coach and general manager Jeff Dubois. “He’s giving us his best hockey at the right time of the year [but] we need some other guys to step up and spread the offence around.”
It took until just after the midway point of the second for the Nitros to get one on the scoresheet, when Joe Karpyshyn would drive to the net and go top shelf, tying the game at one.
The tie was short-lived, however, as the Cats Justen James restored the lead 14 seconds later.
The Cats were controlling the play and the Nitros were looking very disorganized.
“We were sloppy,” said Nitros head coach and general manager Derek Stuart. “The bench was mostly quiet until the third period.”
The Nitros were even flat during the third period, it wasn’t until there were 48 seconds left on the clock that Tyler Van Steinburg would wire a shot past Lefebvre to tie the game and force overtime on his birthday-eve.
During overtime, the Dynamiters were awarded a four-minute power play due to the Cats being called for high-sticking. This is when Kurylo came through as the overtime hero for the second game night and pounced on a rebound.
“I just saw an opportunity, I wanted to jump right on it and put it in the net,” Kurylo said after the game four win. “It was the best feeling.”
Kurylo added that he and the team knew they were lucky to have escaped the game with a victory.
“We stole the win from them tonight,” he said. “It was their game until the last minute of the third.”
Even though Kurylo was the hero, Cody Campbell was the star of both games. The Nitros netminder stopped 73 of 78 shots fired at him in the two games.
“I feel great right now,” Campbell said. “It’s awesome to help the team win.”
Ever since the 6-5 game three loss to Fernie, Campbell has taken his game to another level.
“For myself, internally, I just said enough is enough it’s time to stop the puck.”
Campbell’s performance also garnered praise from coach Stuart.
“When [Campbell’s] been at his best, he plays like that,” Stuart said. “Tonight, we hung him out to dry, made him make too many highlight-reel saves.”
Even with the lulls in game four for the Dynamiters, Stuart was impressed by his team.
“We were resilient throughout a game where we weren’t at our best and a number of guys weren’t feeling one hundred percent,” he said. “It’s a direct reflection of the players’ character and dedication to the team.”
The focus and attention of the series now shifts to the Johnny Bucyk arena for game five on Monday, a do-or-die game for Creston.
“We played well enough to win both games in Kimberley but we didn’t get the job done,” Dubois said. “Now our focus is on playing a strong game at home on Monday and extending the series. We’ll take it one game at a time, as the cliché goes.”
As for Kimberley, Stuart knows that his team must play a desperate full 60-minutes of hockey.
“We want to finish this up right away, you never want to have a team hang around. We want to end this as quickly as we can.”
Game five starts at 8:30 p.m. MDT at the Johnny Bucyk Arena.
MATCH STICKS: The Beaver Valley Nitehawks and the Osoyoos Coyotes have both swept their series and have advanced to their respective conference finals. James Farmer is on a 12-game point streak going back to the regular season (5G, 15A), and sits first in KIJHL playoff scoring.