When the Kimberley Dynamiters won the Kootenay Conference on Monday March 25, 2019; they didn’t know who their opponent was going to be in the KIJHL Finals.
Now they do.
The Revelstoke Grizzlies. A rematch of the 2018 KIJHL Finals. The last time there was a rematch in the league finals was in 2003.
“We are elated to have the opportunity again.” Grizzlies head coach and general manager Ryan Parent said. “Going back shows that Revelstoke is one of the perennial teams in the KI.”
“This is the way it should be.” Dynamiters head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said. “They were the best team in their conference, and we feel that we are the best team in our conference. The two best teams in the league are going at it.”
For Dynamiters Stuart, though, he said, “it’s like looking in a mirror,” about playing the Grizzlies, and the many similarities between the two teams.
Both teams have eight veterans returning from last year.
The Grizzlies have: Bedard, Bodtker, Cadden, Flann, Irvine, McGarva, Pereverzoff, and Wiatzka.
“I’m a believer that you don’t want to return everybody.” Parent said. “We wanted to adjust some things from the year prior, we were able to do that.”
The Dynamiters have: Andersen, Bamber, Bertoia, Chilton, Gedny, Palmer, Risdon, and Russell. The Dynamiters also have two rookies who were affiliates that dressed up in the finals: Koran, and Delaire.
“In terms of experience from last years final, there shouldn’t be an advantage for either team, in my opinion.” Stuart said.
Both teams current starters were backups last season. Andersen went 26-4-1 during the regular season posting a 1.84 GAA and .921 SV% while earning three shutouts. McGarva, posted a 2.01 GAA and .922 SV%, earning three shutouts and having a 27-4-0 record.
In the playoffs, Andersen is 9-1 with a 1.56 GAA, .943 SV% and two shutouts. McGarva has played a couple more games, but again, numbers are similar: 11-2, 1.89 GAA, .932 SV%, and two shutouts.
The rosters are also young. the Dynamiters have 11 rookies, while the Grizzlies have 12.
Both teams had 11 players with 30 or more points during the regular season. In the playoffs, both teams have six players with 10 or more points.
In the regular season, the two teams were separated by only three points in the standings. The Dynamiters with the edge, 88, to the Grizzlies 85.
During the regular season, the Dynamiters power play was second (25.43%), Grizzlies third (24.07%). Grizzlies penalty kill was number one (92.11%), Nitros was a bit lower at fifth (86.35%).
In the playoffs, both the Grizz and Nitros are tied at 88.06% on the penalty kill. The Nitros have the slight edge on the power play 24.66% to 22.78%.
Even when you look at their playoff bracket, they are similar.
The Dynamiters swept their first two rounds against the Golden Rockets and Fernie Ghostriders. The Grizzlies swept their first two series against the Kamloops Storm and 100 Mile House Wranglers. The Nitros needed five games against Beaver Valley to advance to the league finals; the Grizz needed six to win their conference against the Kelowna Chiefs.
Anyway you look at it, these two teams are identical.
In the lone game the two teams have played against eachother. The Grizzlies won a nail-biter 3-2 at the Kimberley Civic Centre, the only game the Nitros have lost at home all season. However, that game was on October 13th, five months ago.
Stuart says that they will not be relying on that long ago one-game experience to prepare for this series. “So many things have changed. It doesn’t mean anything heading into the series.”
A difference between the two teams is travel. The furthest the Nitros have had to travel this post-season was 242 kilometers to Beaver Valley. For the Grizzlies, they had to go 406 kilometers to 100 Mile House.
“We are used to the travel.” Parent said. “Travel for us is a norm.”
Stuart didn’t think that travel was going to be an impact. “We travel all year long. We will be going there a day early, it shouldn’t have anything to do with it at all.”
Going into this series, the Grizzlies are going to be relying on this year’s playoff push lessons, but also last years.
“We are taking a look at Kimberley, and I am sure they are taking a look at us.” Parent said. “It’s going to be a fantastic series all around.
“You are going to see two very good hockey clubs go head-to-head over the next nine days.”
The Dynamiters are going to be watching a lot of video of the Grizzlies previous series against Kelowna.
“Our focus is going to be on us, but we will have to prepare for them,” Stuart said, “because they are such a good hockey team.”