The Kimberley Dynamiters had their regular season opening games over this past weekend, culminating in two extremely narrow defeats to the Fernie Ghostriders.
The final scores were 4-3 on Friday, Nov. 13 with Fernie winning in overtime with final shots being 33-31 and 4-3 on Saturday, Nov. 14 with shots on goal being 29-28 for Fernie.
Considering his team had a positive COVID test and were therefore forced to quarantine for 14 days and miss their final exhibition games and a great deal practice, head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said he is “very, very happy” with their efforts over the weekend.
“With the shortened exhibition season and the unfortunate COVID case that we had, we hadn’t played a game in three weeks and we had nine guys who hadn’t been on the ice for 14 days until the day before Friday’s game,” Stuart told the Bulletin.
“I think on top of that there was six or seven new guys that we added in that quarantine time, so I mean really we had one practice as a team before our first regular season game and to be that close and realistically have a good chance to have won both of those games, I was very impressed with the players’ worth ethic and compete level.”
Stuart said he told his team before the games that they need to “just get through this weekend,” adding there’s no real lessons to take away and that their practice on Monday, Nov. 16 will be the real start to their season.
“This is the first time we’ve had a chance tonight at practice to introduce the power plays, some of our other systems to everyone as a team,” he said. “Some of them haven’t seen it before, some of them have had a practice or two and then it got interrupted. So we’re treating tonight as our first real practice as a team with the current players that we have.”
The Nitros roster is officially solidified. They announced the acquisition of defenceman Adam Diotte coming from Campbell River, and they will also have veteran defenceman Leif Olafson returning. Diotte will be playing this upcoming Friday and Olafson on Saturday.
“I think once those two guys join us, they’ll number one help our defensive core and defensive game immensely but it will also solidify the lineup a little bit more,” Stuart said.
The team also recently announced its leadership structure for the year, with Keegan McDowell chosen as captain and Ryan Bennett and Carter Spring as assistant captains.
Normally, Stuart explained, the players will have a vote on who will be picked to wear the C and the A’s.
This year, however, the coaches chose assistant captains as the regular season came up as soon as the team got out of quarantine.
“Carter Spring and Ryan Bennett, if Keegan wasn’t here they’d be battling it out for the C this year,” Stuart said. “So they’re definitely two guys that we want our players to listen to, but I think more importantly we want our guys to watch them and watch what they do and follow their example.”
McDowell for captain was also an easy choice, Stuart said.
“He’s dedicated to this team and to playing hockey, he loves to play the sport,” he said. “He’s a guy who works out extremely hard in the off season and there was never a waver or a doubt about him returning, even with the C increase, and COVID and the uncertainty, he was committed and loyal to playing here and I think if we would of had a vote for that I think he would have won that either unanimously or very heavily.”
The Dynamiters will next take on the Creston Valley Thundercats in Kimberley on Friday, Nov. 20 and in Creston on Saturday, Nov. 21.
Stuart said he believes this weekend gives him and his team a lot of confidence, knowing that if all things were equal the Dynamiters had a good shot at being 2 and 0 after this weekend, and not the other way around.
“We’re two to three weeks behind our opponents right now so to have a chance to win those two games and like I said probably could have or should have one both, it puts a lot of confidence and excitement in our group.”