With each game he plays, Keenan Haase puts forth a stronger, more confident performance.
Friday night provided another piece of evidence in the case file presenting Haase as one of the KIJHL’s dominant power forwards. The native of Mission Viejo, Calif., rattled off three goals and an assist to lead the Kimberley Dynamiters to a 6-2 victory over the Columbia Valley Rockies.
“It took him a while to adapt in the league and I’m not too familiar with [his] last season, but I don’t think he got a lot of ice time,” Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks said of Haase Friday night. “Now, he’s in a place where he’s getting ice time, he’s getting special teams, he’s on the power play and he’s a hard worker in practice. He’s learned to be strong on his stick and use his size to his advantage. He’s got a great shot.
“Early in the year, you would notice when he tried to beat guys he would stop skating. Now he keeps his feet moving and it’s really paying off for him. He’s a dominant player in this league.”
After starting the season with six points (3G, 3A) in seven games, the 6-foot-2 Haase struggled through his next 18 games putting up only four points (1G, 3A).
Since December rolled in, the 18-year-old California kid has been as hot as the Mission Viejo summer sun, registering 21 points (13G, 8A) in 17 games.
“Our coach [Jerry Bancks] says, ‘If things are going right, double your work ethic,’ and I kind of took that to heart,” Haase said Friday. “Working out more in the gym, off ice and on ice, by myself and [with the guys]. Working as a team and going that little extra mile at the end has helped [my production].”
Haase’s extra effort was visible in all areas of the game Friday night at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
First, he opened the scoring with a power-play marker less than five minutes into the opening period of play.
Then, he extended the hosts’ lead to 3-0 less than two minutes into the second period, with an even-strength tally.
Last, but certainly not least, the 190-pound power forward displayed a strong solo effort to round out the scoring, capping his hat-trick performance with a shorthanded goal late in the third period.
“It was Coy [Prevost] on the wall and I kind of saw a little break coming,” Haase said, recounting his shorthanded, hat-trick tally. “I told him to chip it to the middle. One ‘D’ was kind of getting off the bench for [the Rockies] so it was kind of a one-on-one and I figured I might as well make a move. It worked out. Got around him and put it on net.
“[Coach Bancks] has given me every opportunity I could ever wish for. I’ve had coaches in the past where, you’re kind of on the team just to fill a spot. But with Jerry and our assistant coaches, they really want you to do better and move on to the next level, which really helps. It’s a pretty positive environment.”
Haase wasn’t the lone Dynamiter to turn in a dynamic performance in Friday’s victory over the Rockies. Without the presence of Coy Prevost, Haase might not have had the night he did.
Prevost, a Kimberley native, set up Haase twice. Haase returned a bit of the love, assisting Prevost on an early third-period goal to make it 4-1. By the end of the night, Prevost laid claim to one goal and three assists.
Though the Nitros eventually ran away with the win Friday, both Bancks and Haase know there’s still work to be done moving forward.
“We were way off for the first 10 minutes [Friday]. [The Rockies] should have been up 1-0 and we got a lucky power-play goal,” Bancks said. “After that, I thought we settled in and played quite well. I really like some of the decisions we made in the third period just to get the puck out.”
Defenceman Ryan St. Jean and forward Damon Raven provided the two markers for the Rockies. Lincoln Lane and Eric Buckley rounded out the scoring for the Dynamiters.
Rockies starting goaltender Jason Sandhu was yanked after allowing two goals on three shots in the opening four minutes of the first period. Patrick Ostermann came on in relief, turning aside 32 shots.
Tyson Brouwer earned his 21st victory of the season for the Dynamiters with a 22-save performance at the other end of the rink.
The victory kept the Dynamiters (24-15-2-3, 53 points) in possession of second place in the Eddie Mountain Division, one point ahead of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats (23-15-2-4, 52). Both teams have played 44 games, with eight contests remaining as they pursue the coveted second slot in the division. The Fernie Ghostriders (32-9-1-2, 67) maintain a stranglehold on the division lead.
The Dynamiters will look to iron out any wrinkles Tuesday night when they travel to Invermere for a rematch with the Rockies.
“In the first period [Friday], coach said we had eight turnovers within the first 15 minutes,” Haase said. “That’s nothing to be proud of. We have to lock it down defensively and just move forward from there.”
Notes: Friday night, Dynamiters D Jonas Gordon returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury Dec. 2 versus the Golden Rockets. F Jared Marchi (lower body, day to day) and F Marco Campanella (lower body, week to week) are the last remaining Dynamiters on the injured list.