The Kimberley Dynamiters schedule has shifted to divisional matchups. If this past weekend is any indication, the Nitros are in for an emotional roller coaster.
On Friday, the Dynamiters hosted the Columbia Valley Rockies, who beat the Nitros in Invermere during their last visit.
“With how the Rockies celebrated with their win in Invermere, like they’d won the league; it helped make it easy to motivate the guys,” head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said.
The Nitros were motvated and came busting out in the first period, scoring two goals and firing 19 shots. Brandy Bertoia scored the opening goal before the five minute mark, and then Cam Russell added a power play goal.
“I just found a little more confidence in this league. It is just coming.” Russell said after the game, he has had seven points in the last five games.
The story was much the same in the second period. Two goals, and out-shooting the Rockies. James Farmer scored at the midway point of the period, and Nicholas Ketola made it 4-0 after 40 minutes.
The Nitros were using their speed, and large ice surface to their advantage. “Our defence can get back for pucks quickly, get their feet turned quickly,” Stuart says, “might as well move the puck and stretch the zone so we can enter their zone quicker.”
Going into the third, murmurings of Adam Andersen earning his first KIJHL shutout began to swirl. When Matt Davies scored after the 10-minute mark to make it 5-0, the murmurings turned into whispers of excitement. Then with the third period nearing it’s conclusion, the Rockies scored their lone goal, ending Andersen and the Nitro’s bid for a shutout.
Andersen turned aside 23 of the 24 shots he faced earning his sixth win of the season.
“Andersen did great.” Stuart said. “November 7th was his last game. For him to have the focus and determination to play like he did tonight, I thought he looked really sound and made some key saves.”
The games against the Rockies have all been polarizing: 6-1 win, 6-2 loss, and now a 5-1 victory.
“The Rockies are a good hockey club,” Stuart said. “The difference tonight was that we were prepared and focused.”
Forward, Russell agrees, “We bounced back. We had to prepare better, and that showed on the ice.”
Now, let’s move onto the main event, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats came rolling into town on Saturday. The Cats entered the game trailing the Nitros by six points in the standing, but also have a game in hand.
For 20 minutes, the game was close. The Cats had a one shot edge in shots, and that difference was a goal.
“I thought we were pretty good in the first period. We had five or six point blank scoring chances in the ten minutes.” Stuart said. “Once we got that first ten minute major, things started to go down mentally.”
The underlying story in that period, was Mason Palaga was called for boarding, and then there was an ensuing scrap. Little did we know, that this was just the start of the parade to the penalty box and dressing room.
In the second period, the wheels fell off for the Nitros. The Thunder Cats unleashed their full attack, showing why they are one of the hottest teams in the KIJHL, scoring four goals to the Dynamiters one.
And it didn’t stop. The Cats kept pressing, chasing Cody Campbell from the net after the sixth goal in the third. Then on the first shot against Andersen, they scored. 7-1 Cats.
“We weren’t prepared and didn’t didn’t stick to our game plan,” Nitros captain Brett Roberts said after the game.
Just when the scoring looked like it was done, they added one more with just over eight minutes left.
It was at this point that tempers flared. A line brawl broke out, once the fighting was done, the officials were slow to get players to their benches and to the penalty box, which led to more outbreaks.
Two minutes later, another line brawl erupted. When this was dealt with and sorted, there were 11 skaters left on each team to finish out the game.
When all was said and done, there was a total of 162 penalty minutes during the game, eight game misconducts, seven suspended players totalling 22 games.
“When a team gets their asses kicked on the scoreboard (as we did) it’s something we can deal with and try to fix moving forward.” Stuart said after the game.
“But when the opponent chooses to run their mouths from the safety of their bench, punch my players in the face while hiding behind linesmen and excessively celebrate when they score their seventh and eigth goals we aren’t going to sit there and take that.
“The behaviour of some of Creston’s veteran players after the game was out of hand and was the sole reason the game ended the way it did.”
In three games against the Cats, the Nitros have only earned one point in a tie, and have lossed the other two.
“We played great against Beaver Valley. We have beat Nelson twice.” Stuart said about his teams consistency. “It’s just Creston. I don’t know if it is a mental block.”
As for the captain, he believes the team has learned their lesson, “We haven’t shown them our full potential, we know what went wrong and have taken the steps to make sure we learn from our mistakes.
“There are lots of lessons we still need to learn as a team and will continue to throughout the season, this is only one of many more games we have against the Thunder Cats and we are fully confident that what happened tonight night won’t happen again.”
The Nitro’s schedule continues to be division heavy with games this weekend against the Fernie Ghostriders and Columbia Valley Rockies.
MATCH STICKS: Mason Palaga is suspended for two games, Lucas Purdy two games, James Farmer one, and Harrison Risdon five.