The Kimberley Dynamiters were 20 minutes away from pulling off a massive upset in the KIJHL division final.
Up 3-1 in the series with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, The Nitros surrendered the following two matchups, which forced a winner-take-all Game 7.
Despite pulling ahead 4-1 after two periods, the T-Cats completed an unreal comeback to win 5-4 and earn a berth into the Kootenay Conference final.
Nitro head coach Jerry Bancks said injuries piled up by the seventh game, and were serious enough to change the outcome in the final 10 minutes.
Jason Richter and Andrew Miller were playing while sick, Tanner Gray had a skate cut, Bryce Neilsen hurt his knee at the start of the third period, Bryce Perpelitz blocked a shot with his thumb and could only play with one hand.
Suspensions to Buckley and Tyler Garcia didn’t help, either.
“I could feel it coming when they made it 4 2,” said Bancks. “That goal changed the outcome.”
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Bancks is happy with how the team performed over the 2013/14 KIJHL campaign.
“We are very pleased with the season,” Bancks said. “To be able to put ourselves in the situation we were in was an amazing accomplishment considering all of the adversity. I can safely say I was never more proud of a group of athletes than I was with this team.”
Dynamiters defenceman Bryce Perpelitz was named the playoff MVP for the club, adding to his honours after being named the divisional defenceman of the year at the start of the playoffs.
The Nitros had a solid regular season with a 29-21-2-0 record, done mostly on the back of a younger team, and made it into the second round of the playoffs. Though the team was infused with youth, Bancks also gave a glowing review to his leadership core.
“We accomplished much with a young team whose goal was to develop players,” Bancks said. “We were much younger than all of the teams in our division and still rose to the top. We got better every day which is why we were successful.
“I would also think we worked harder in practice than the other teams due to our tremendous character. To do this we had to have tremendous leadership from our older players which we did on and off the ice.”
Bancks credits his fellow coaches in Todd White, Jeff Keiver, and Mike Reid, along with general manager Rocky Allen for helping establish a team identity.
“We are looking forward to next year,” Bancks said. “Many of our players will move on but a foundation for how we do things has been established. Thanks to all of our fans and we will be back better than ever.”
A few of the graduating class of players have committed to college; Tanner Gray is headed to Eastern Washington University of the BCIHL, Darren Martin is off to University of Central Oklahoma, and Bryce Neilsen will be representing New England College.