The Kimberley Dynamiters are advancing to the KIJHL Finals for the third time in four years after defeating the Nelson Leafs 2-1 in double overtime.
As anticipated, Game Six in Nelson was an excellent hockey game, one for the history books, as the Dynamiters closed out the series.
“For entertainment value, you can’t get much better entertainment in the Kootenays than we saw last night.” Head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said. “It was very exciting. One team trying to advance, one team trying to stay alive, so both were playing desperate. It was an outstanding game.”
The Dynamiters came out flying in Nelson, outshooting the Leafs 10-6. Bryce McDonald scored at the midway point of the first to give the Nitros a 1-0 lead.
The Nitros controlled the play until the midway point of the second period, and then the Leafs took charge, with their captain – and former Nitro – Sawyer Hunt taking the lead. Hunt scored with eight minutes left in the second tying it at one.
The Leafs kept turning up the desperation, and took it to the Dynamiters in the third. The two teams stayed knotted at one. And this game was headed to overtime.
There was a five minute break, and then the first 10-minute period of overtime started. The Leafs wanted their season to continue and resumed their barrage on Nitro keeper Cody Campbell.
With six second left in the first overtime period, the Nelson Leafs were awarded a penalty shot.
“It was kind of a scramble in the last ten seconds.” Campbell said. “I was down on the ice, Palaga was in the crease with me. One thing lead to another, he was on top of the puck and I was on top of him.
“So [the ref] decided that he was the guy covering the puck, and they called the penalty shot. I don’t blame them.
“The drama that came with that in Nelson, they were going crazy. It was a good call.”
The Leafs had their pick of any player on their team and chose their leading point-scorer Ryan Piva.
Piva took his time preparing for his shot, and swung out wide to the right. The chance to force a Game Seven on Sunday was on his stick. As for Campbell, this moment could extend the game.
“I had to treat it like any other shot.” Campbell recalled. “I was just trying to read where he was coming in on the ice, recognizing what hand he was, so that I could be on the right angle for the shot.
“I realized that we had played 29 minutes on that ice without a flood, so chances are he was going to shoot the puck.
“I came out and got a little extra depth on him. I read it right, and the puck hit me.”
Campbell made the overtime penalty shot save on Piva, as he tried to shoot high glove side.
“It was a heart stopper.” Stuart laughed. “Guys were holding their breath, and quite a few weren’t looking and were just waiting to hear the reaction.
“We’re having so much confidence in Cody that we believed he was going to save it. We were very happy and not surprised when he did save it.”
“It’s fun to be in the spotlight for a little bit and give my team a chance to win.” Campbell said. “I knew if I stopped that, there was no way they were going to score a goal.”
The Dynamiters were thrilled to get a break to regroup and re-energize for the second period of overtime.
The Leafs continued to take it to the Dynamiters in the second overtime, wanting to save their season. But the tides slowly began to turn, as the Nitros rang a couple pucks off the post.
And then, “I’m not sure how Palmer got the puck, but he had the puck.” Cooper Page recalled, “There were probably about four bodies, including myself, in front of the net.
“I squeaked out to the right side, and the puck bounced right to me. It was bouncing and I just batted it. I saw it slow motion go over the goalies shoulder and it went in.”
For Page, he said it was the biggest goal of his career.
“It felt good. It was a pretty surreal moment. It was nice to get it done, we worked hard all series. It felt really good. I am just happy to be moving onto the next round.”
“It was a bit of delayed reaction.” Stuart smiled. “It looked like it was going in, but until it actually landed on the ice over the line.
“Then pandemonium on the bench. The coaching staff and the players were extremely excited to be able to get it done and to call ourselves the Kootenay Conference Champions.”
Captain Brett Roberts and the assistant captains then stood at centre ice to receive the banner.
The Nitros then traveled home, and did not return to the Civic Centre to unload until about 3:30 a.m.. Understandably after double OT, four games in five nights, and the late night – the team was exhausted.
Looking back at the series, Staurt felt it was the team’s grit that helped them win the series.
“Our team toughness was a big factor for our series win.” He said. “That’s the second series in a row where our opponent has tried to intimidate us and wear us down physically only to find out it can’t be done against this group.”
The team can now rest up as they wait for the winner of the Revelstoke Grizzlies and the Osoyoos Coyotes series. This season alone, the Dynamiters have won the division, conference and league in the regular season, and have since won the division and the conference in the playoffs.
“It is pretty special.” Stuart said. “It just speaks to the organization, and Jerry Bancks and his staff. I am just trying my best to carry on what they have created here. The assistant coaches that are here now that were with Jerry have done a good job in helping me do that.
“Of course, it is really all the players. They are the ones that are going out there and battling each night. We have a great group here, it’s very pretty special”
They deserve some time off, and will do so before they start preparing for the KIJHL finals which will begin late this coming week.