With the end of the 2014-15 KIJHL regular season quickly approaching, the Kimberley Dynamiters are doing everything in their power to claim home-ice advantage in the first round of the post-season.
The Fernie Ghostriders have locked down first place, meaning all that’s left to fight over is second place in the KIJHL’s Eddie Mountain Division and that’s exactly what the Dynamiters and Creston Valley Thunder Cats did Friday night.
Courtesy a 35-save performance from goaltender Tyson Brouwer and overtime heroics from Jordan Roy, the Nitros scraped out the extra point in a 2-1 victory.
With the fourth-place Golden Rockets nine points back of Creston Valley, the likelihood of a Thunder Cats-Dynamiters first-round playoff matchup increases with each passing day.
“Every day that goes by, it becomes more obvious that’s who we’re going to play [in the first round of playoffs],” said Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks. “I was tempted to sit in the stands [Friday] and just watch their systems, but I think we have a pretty good grasp of what they do as they do us. It basically just boils down to who wants it more and that’s pretty much it.
“They’ve got a good team. It’s going to be extremely exciting.”
The Rockets have five games remaining on their schedule and need to collect all 10 possible points in order to pull ahead of the Thunder Cats. With six games remaining on their slate, the Thunder Cats need only win one to ensure nothing worse than a third-place finish in the division.
Friday’s win kept the Dynamiters three points ahead of the Thunder Cats in the race for the coveted second spot, though Creston Valley holds one game in hand on its divisional rival.
The goaltending duel raged from beginning to end as Thunder Cats puck-stopper Brock Lefebvre made 31 saves at the other end to help scrounge a valuable point for his team.
Both goaltenders were named players of the game for their respective teams.
Jared Marchi returned to action for the Nitros this weekend after missing nine games due to a lower-body injury suffered Dec. 29 in a 2-1 loss to the Fernie Ghostriders.
The 19-year-old native of Kimberley made his presence felt, tallying a goal and an assist Saturday night in an 11-1 victory over the Columbia Valley Rockies.
“I was really glad we took our time bringing [Marchi] back,” Bancks said. “We could have brought him back a week earlier and we didn’t. Because of it, he was able to jump right in and pretty much pick up where he left off. He played extremely well.”
In all, 13 of the Dynamiters’ 17 skaters found a way to the scoresheet Saturday, including seven different goal-scorers.
Keenan Haase and Jason Richter led the onslaught with four points apiece.
Haase notched three goals and an assist, while Richter put up two goals and two helpers.
Invermere native Brody Nelson turned aside 24 shots to collect the win.
Despite the lopsided tilt, Bancks was thankful for the opportunity to spend some time working on his team’s power-play execution Saturday in Invermere.
According to official scoring on the KIJHL website, the Nitros man advantage was 2-for-6 Saturday night, with Braden Saretsky and Haase converting.
The playoff push wears on Tuesday evening as the Creston Valley Thunder Cats visit the Kimberley Civic Centre intent on closing the gap in the Eddie Mountain Division standings.
A regulation win for the Dynamiters will push Kimberley five points up on the Thunder Cats. A Creston Valley victory will pull the visitors within a single point of the coveted second seed in the Eddie Mountain Division.
The Nitros will be without forward Jesse Wallace, who suffered an upper-body injury Saturday against the Rockies. He is considered day-to-day. Marco Campanella (lower body, week to week) will also be unavailable.
Puck drop at the Civic Centre is slated for 7 p.m.