The road to the Cyclone Taylor Cup isn’t an easy one and Sunday’s full-out war in Game 2 of the KIJHL championship between the Kamloops Storm and Kimberley Dynamiters proved just that.
The host Nitros may have come out of the crazy engagement with a 6-3 victory and 2-0 series lead, but with Games 3 and 4 scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Kamloops, this series is far from over.
“I think we’re improving as the series goes on,” said Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks. “That’s what I’m really happy with. We’re getting a little bit better as the series goes on and I hope it can continue.”
While many teams in the KIJHL’s Eddie Mountain Division find they have to make adjustments when entering the relatively large confines of the Kimberley Civic Centre, it will be the Dynamiters looking to make adjustments in Kamloops on the Olympic-sized ice at McArthur Park Arena.
“We’ve got to get there and get a feel for it,” Bancks said. “We’ve pretty much got to start playing to see how you adapt.
“Last year when we played there, I think we only had 11 players in the lineup and two of them were sick. We just played a 1-2-2 and tried to keep shots down to a minimum. I don’t really know what it’s like to play a real game in there because we haven’t done it yet.”
This is the first trek to Kamloops for the Dynamiters since the 2013-14 regular season when they suffered a 3-1 loss Jan. 11, 2014, in which Tyson Brouwer faced 55 shots.
While the building may be unfamiliar for most of those donning Dynamiter black Tuesday night, the opponent won’t be as the two teams became quickly acquainted in Games 1 and 2 in Kimberley this past weekend.
“We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box,” Bancks said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to tell my guys to stay calm and play intelligent, because they’ve got a great power play. In that rink, it’s probably even better and harder to defend.”
Through two games in the Civic Centre, the Storm were a combined 4-for-7 on the man advantage, despite coming out on the short end of the decision both nights.
Storm forward Mitch Friesen proved deadline on the power-play, with both his goals in the series coming on the man advantage in Game 2.
With three goals and three assists through the first two games of the championship series, West Kelowna native Braden Saretsky has been a catalyst for the Dynamiters offense. The former Summerland Steam forward has 16 goals and 25 points to his credit in 18 post-season games, good enough to lead the entire league.
“We’re a pretty quick team so with bigger ice, we shouldn’t have any issues,” Saretsky said. “We’ll just keep playing our game, keep wearing them out and hopefully take two in their barn.
“We’ve got to keep finishing our checks. That’s what gets them off their game. They’re a pretty skilled team but once you start taking the body on them, they kind of start to lose it a bit. They start taking penalties and we start capitalizing on them. If we keep doing that, we’ll be fine.”
The Nitros found a way to get to Storm goaltender Jacob Mullen in Games 1 and 2.
After playing lights out for the Storm in the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference final versus the Osoyoos Coyotes, making 188 stops on 201 shots, Mullen has only stopped 27 of 34 pucks sent his way in the KIJHL final.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven KIJHL championship is slated for Tuesday night at 8 p.m. (Mountain Time) from the McArthur Park Arena in Kamloops.
The winner of the KIJHL championship books a ticket to the Cyclone Taylor Cup — scheduled for April 3 to 6 in Mission — for a shot at the B.C. Junior B title.
As it stands, three of four qualification spots have been filled, with the Storm and Dynamiters vying for the final golden ticket.
Already qualified for the British Columbia provincial championship are the Campbell River Storm (VIJHL), host Mission City Outlaws (PJHL) and North Vancouver Wolf Pack (PJHL).
The winner of the Cyclone Taylor Cup advances to the Keystone Cup (Western Canadian Junior B Hockey Championship) in Cold Lake, Alta., April 16 to 19.
The Cold Lake Ice of the North Eastern Alberta Junior B Hockey League are set to host the 2015 Keystone Cup.