The annual ‘Christmas Classic’ series between the Kimberley Dynamiters and the Fernie Ghostriders lived up to its name in game one with a thrilling 5-4 double overtime win for the Nitros.
The first of the home-and-home was held in Kimberley on Wednesday night, where over 1,000 people crammed into the Civic Centre to watch what was arguably the best game of the year.
It was a night that head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said probably won some fans back and although it wasn’t a finesse or hard working game — it was sloppy and disorganized — it was undeniably highly entertaining.
While officials were stuck in traffic after an unfortunate accident in Moyie, and the players were not completely in game shape, the crowd was treated to a fun night.
“Having a nine-day layoff, any team is not going to be in as good of shape as they were when they left,” said Stuart following the game. “It’s something everyone has to deal with [but] the conditioning and the lack of lung capacity definitely showed.”
The Dynamiters got on the board early with a power play goal from James Farmer. Fernie, however, had a quick answer, and then a plus one, as Justin Peers scored two goals for the ‘Riders.
Before the first period drew to a conclusion though, Matt Davies tied the game for the Nitros with just 19 seconds left.
Early in the second frame, Davies would give the Dynamiters a one-goal lead but the ‘Riders responded again rapidly with two of their own goals to give themselves a 4-3 lead, despite being outshot 12-6.
“In the second period we deserved the better fate, score-wise,” Stuart said. “In my opinion, we carried the play [but] we just didn’t get the bounces on goal.
“[We] give Fernie credit [though], they played a good solid road game tonight. Didn’t give us too many opportunities. We had to earn every opportunity we got.”
In the third period, the pace of the game slowed, as the lack of conditioning over the Christmas break began even more apparent. Kimberley then had a chance to get level in the game with a penalty called with 2:19 left in the third.
Adding to the intensity was clock issues, as the score clock struggled to post the remaining time. Nonetheless, it took the Nitros 30 seconds to cash-in on the power play with a goal from Chase Miller. It was from this moment on that it felt like overtime.
The first period of overtime, four-on-four, resolved nothing so the game moved into a five minute period of three-on-three hockey.
Nicholas Ketola was dragged down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot, but Ghostriders goalie Brandon Butler stopped him. Moments later the Nitros thought they had scored the winner, but the net was dislodged before the puck went in.
After two glorious opportunities, hope was beginning to fade on the Kimberley bench.
“We have gotten to the point as a staff that when something like that happens, we don’t have to say anything anymore,” Stuart said “The group of leaders and veterans were just telling everyone to calm down and keep plugging away. They take care of it themselves.”
And that’s what they did. With just over two minutes left in the last period of overtime Herringer (now credited to Karpyshyn) scored the overtime winning goal and the Civic Centre crowd erupted with jubilation.
“The most important thing is that we beat Fernie, putting a little more distance between us and them,” Stuart said. “It feels good. It’s nice to get the win after a break,” defencemen Tyler Van Steinburg added.
The Dynamiters now shift their focus down the highway as they travel to Fernie for the second game of the holiday series.
Van Steinburg said that the team needs to focus and realize that tonight is a brand new game.”[We have] to get our heads around that [the fact] that it’s going to be an entirely different game,” he explained. “It will be more compact in a smaller rink [and] they’re going to be right on us, we’re not going to have the time like we did tonight.”“[We have to] be ready to hit and be hit.”
Stuart, however, is looking to capitalize on any advantage that his team has.”We have to take advantage of the little advantage that we have, that we don’t need to travel back on a bus and get back to bed to get rest,” he said last night. “For us going into Fernie, it is important for us to have a good start.
“Overall, whichever team is in the best condition right now will have the advantage.”