At the conclusion of his team’s first-round victory over the Fernie Ghostriders, Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks talked a lot about identity looking ahead to a second-round series with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
“We have to make certain that we come to grips with our identity and then take our identity into the series,” Bancks said. “I know what [the Thunder Cats’] identity is — they play with good skill and I think Columbia Valley found that out. You’ve got to be ready.”
If it’s imperative for his team to come to grips with its own identity, what exactly is that?
“That’s one of our problems right now,” Bancks said. “We’re a little confused with our identity. For a good part of the year, we were a good forechecking team, played the game with some good speed.
“We need to get a little more speed in the lineup and get on the forecheck. Our identity should be to play the game with speed, be disciplined and I thought we didn’t do that [against Fernie]. “
Despite not playing to their identity, the Nitros dispatched the Ghostriders in five games and with relative ease. Now, the Dynamiters get an opportunity to rediscover that lost identity beginning Saturday night (7 p.m.) when the puck drops on Game 1 of the Eddie Mountain Division final with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
Using their own identity, the Thunder Cats swept the Columbia Valley Rockies in a four-game first-round triumph, outscoring the opponent by a decisive margin of 19-7.
“I don’t think anybody’s being naive that it’s going to be an easy series,” Thunder Cats head coach and general manager Jeff Dubois told Brian Lawrence of the Creston Valley Advance. “At the same time, we did have some success against them on home ice. We can compete with them over a seven-game series.”
Over an eight-game regular season series with the Thunder Cats, the Dynamiters were a perfect 4-0-0 at the Kimberley Civic Centre. At Creston’s Johnny Bucyk Arena, the Nitros suffered three regulation losses.
Over the entire 2015-16 KIJHL regular season, the Dynamiters only lost seven games in regulation. It’s safe to say Creston was not particularly friendly, accounting for 42.9 per cent of those.
“They’ve got guys that can capitalize,” said Dynamiters forward Tanner Wit. “They’re not the most physical team in the league and we know that. That’s why we’re going to exploit that. But if you give them a chance, they will take it. They’ve got guys that can put the puck in the net. We’ve just got to watch out for that.”
Though Wit and the Dynamiters finished the regular season atop the Eddie Mountain Division with a record of 41-7-0-4, the Thunder Cats were a not-too-distant second for the majority of the season, finishing 33-15-2-2.
After eight regular-season meetings and five-game first round series in 2014-15, the Dynamiters and Thunder Cats might not own the fiercest rivalry in the league, but it has certainly ramped up over the course of the past two seasons.
“We’re such an all-around team and each and every one of us would sacrifice for anyone,” said Trevor Van Steinburg, the Dynamiters local jack of all trades, having spent time as a forward and defenceman during the first round against Fernie.
“We have to take it one game at a time, one shift at a time. It’s not going to come easy so we need to just keep working.”
With Bancks stressing the need for speed, the Nitros should get some help in that department as forward Austyn Moser is expected back in the lineup come Game 1.
The rough-and-tumble native of Taber, Alta., played the first two games against Fernie before being sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Game 2 of the Eddie Mountain Division final is scheduled for Sunday (7 p.m.) at the Kimberley Civic Centre before the series shifts to Creston for Games 3 and 4.
Eddie Mountain Division FinalCreston Valley Thunder Cats (2) vs. Kimberley Dynamiters (1)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
DynamitersBancks listed Sawyer Hunt (6A) as arguably his best forward during a five-game triumph over the Ghostriders. Eric Buckley (3G, 3A) continues to produce and Korbyn Chabot (2-2-4) scored a big overtime winner against Fernie. Oh, don’t forget captain Jason Richter (1-3-4), Jared Marchi (2-1-3) and Keenan Haase (2-1-3).
Thunder CatsCarson Cartwright (7-1-8) leads the conference in playoff scoring and Alec Wilkinson (1-5-6) has been a masterful setup man. Liam Plunkett (1-4-5) was a pest during the regular season series and Ian Desrosiers (0-2-2) brings an experienced presence.
DynamitersJordan Busch (0-4-4) returned from a two-game suspension during which his absence was noticeable. Justin Meier (1-3-4) and George Bertoia (1-1-2) have been warriors, while Devon Langelaar (0-3-3) has taken on some additional minutes.
Thunder CatsJackson Bruce-Fuoco (1-2-3) leads Creston from the backend, where Sebastian Kilcommons (1-3-4) was a catalyst during the first round. Maverick Lynes was a pain during the first-round meeting between these clubs in 2015 and he returns to do the same in 2016.
DynamitersTyson Brouwer (4-1, 1.36 GAA, .953 SP, two shutouts) was honoured as Eddie Mountain Division Goaltender of the Year at the start of his team’s first-round series with the Ghostriders.
Thunder CatsBrock Lefebvre (4-0, 1.75 GAA, .935 SP) provides the backbone for the Thunder Cats.