The Kimberley Dynamiters hit the road to the Okanagan this past weekend and returned home sitting on top of the Eddie Mountain division standings, following two close wins against the North Okanagan Knights on Friday, Jan. 13 and the Kelowna Chiefs on Saturday, Jan. 14.
Head coach Derek Stuart said that his team’s defense has been “outstanding,” but offensively they need to step it up a notch.
“North Okanagan, they’re a pretty good hockey club, they’re not easy to play against,” he said. “I think defensively, five on five, we gave them very little in terms of scoring chances. I thought we worked hard. We just weren’t getting into the dirty areas enough offensively, and then Saturday again I can’t recall a legitimate scoring chance for Kelowna, but ours were very few as well.”
Defensively the Nitros did enough to win both games, but both games they just barely got ahead of their opponents, winning 3-2 over the Knights in overtime and 1-0 against the Chiefs.
“Offensively our forwards need to get a lot more courageous and get to the front of the net more,” Stuart said. “We had four goals on the weekend, three of them were scored by defenceman.”
Cam Reid put the Dynamiters on the board in the first period against the Knights, with Campbell Mclean tying things back up in the second. Cam Reid went on to score his fifteenth goal of the season to win his team the game in the first period of overtime.
After a scoreless first two periods on Saturday night, Dynamiters defenceman Devin McNair scored the game-winning goal midway through the third to secure their win against Kelowna.
Saturday’s game was fairly penalty-heavy, but apart from one unnecessary penalty, Stuart felt his team did fairly well in that department, but fortunately for his team, Kelowna was not.
“They imploded in the third for whatever reason, I’ve never seen a team implode like that when the game’s on the line,” he explained. “But we’re thankful they did because it allowed us to get the win on the power play.”
Currently the Dynamiters are have taken the top spot in the standings away from Columbia Valley, though the Rockies do have two games in hand. Stuart attributes his club’s “fantastic” defense to their 11-1-0-1 record since Dec. 1.
“We’re looking at the standings a little bit more now for sure,” Stuart said. One of the team’s goals was to finish first in our division and in the conference.
“Columbia Valley has a couple games in hand that if they won both they would be ahead of us by a point but Osoyoos did do us a little bit of a favour on Saturday, so this game Friday is huge if we want to continue to pursue our first place goal.”
This makes their next game on Friday against Columbia Valley on their ice very important, with Stuart calling it the biggest game of the year.
Their next home game is the following day, Saturday, Jan. 21 is against Golden, who are in third place in the Eddie Mountain division standings. The last three games between the Dynamiters and the Rockets have been decided by just one goal, with the Nitros winning two.
With just under half the season left to go, Stuart reiterated that he’s very happy with where his team is defensively, they just need to bear down on the offensive department.
“Offensively, again, we have enough skilled players, they’re just not putting the work in,” he said.
“They’re staying on the perimeter, thinking they’re more skilled than they are and we need to change that right away, because we’re not going to beat Columbia Valley scoring one goal, or maybe even three goals. I think that’s the main issue right now, everything else seems to be clicking very well.”
This longer road trip was also good for developing team chemistry, especially with the team’s latest two new acquisitions, Jake Watson from the North Okanagan Knights and Tristan Weill, who the Nitros picked up in a trade with Summerland for Luke Rothfos.