It was the Keenan Haase show Tuesday night at the Kimberley Civic Centre as the Kimberley Dynamiters skated to a 6-1 victory over the rival Creston Valley Thunder Cats in KIJHL Eddie Mountain Division action.
Haase, the 6-foot-2,195-pound native of Mission Viejo, Calif., did everything in his power to help power his team to a win and he started from the first puck drop, checking off just about every box on a coach’s to-do list. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the easy-going pivot had posted four goals and an assist to fuel his team’s offense.
“When Keenan’s going, he’s the best centre man in the league,” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, Tuesday night. “I suggested to him a couple things and he’s been doing it on his own after practice. The biggest thing you noticed tonight was the speed he was generating through the middle of the ice. He tends to sometimes coast and watch the play, but tonight he was generating speed.
“He played extremely well and he hit the net with his shot. He’s got a heavy shot that bores through goalies.”
First, the 19-year-old California kid opened the scoring, taking a pass at centre ice, using his size and strength to battle through the Creston defense and into the offensive zone before going high glove past Thunder Cats netminder Brock Lefebvre for a 1-0 lead.
Even-strength goal for Haase — check.
“I just tried to focus on keeping my feet moving and I definitely hit the net — I haven’t been hitting the net very much [before Tuesday],” Haase said with a chuckle. “This game, I listened to the coaches for once and it paid off.”
Shortly after taking a 1-0 lead, the Nitros were caught jumping as Thunder Cats forward Colby Livingstone slipped behind the defense. Chasing on the back check, Dynamiters defenceman Justin Meier was tagged with a holding penalty as he harassed Livingstone, leading to a Creston power play. On the ensuing penalty kill, Austyn Moser fired a puck out of play, leading to a 5-on-3 opportunity for the visitors.
Haase stepped on to the ice and helped kill off the two-man advantage.
Patient, tactical work on the penalty kill by Haase — check.
As much as Haase was at the centre of action in the first period, so was the 19-year-old Livingstone for Creston.
The feisty forward took a retaliatory penalty shortly after his squad missed on a valuable power-play opportunity, handing an advantage to his opponent.
Who do you think answered the bell?
After winning the faceoff, Haase rang a hard shot off the iron and in behind Lefebvre for a 2-0 Kimberley lead.
Power-play conversion by Haase — check.
Finally, with time winding down in the period, the power forward set up the play instead of finishing it, as George Bertoia’s seeing-eye single from the point found a hole in Lefebvre and the hosts took a commanding 3-0 lead to the dressing room after 20 minutes of play.
“A hockey person notices [Bertoia],” Bancks said of his steady blue-liner. “He’s not flashy, although tonight he jumped into the rush a couple times. But he’s so positionally sound and uses his stick so well. He might be one of the most coachable kids.
“I am shocked that some Junior A teams haven’t come wanting to AP [affiliate player] him. He’s a player.”
For Bertoia, widely regarded as a superior shutdown specialist, the tally was his first of the season and first as a Dynamiter.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bertoia said with a laugh. “It’s nice.
“I was just calling for [the puck] at the point and I got a shot off. It hit some sticks and went in.”
The Thunder Cats got on the board in the second period as Lien Miller-Jeannotte pounced on a loose puck behind the Kimberley cage before wrapping it around the post and past Tyson Brouwer.
After that, it was more of the same from the Dynamiters as Haase redirected a point shot from Jordan Busch to complete the hat trick and give the home team a 4-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
Hat trick by Haase — check.
“Bucks and Sawyer [Hunt] were doing some good work down in the corners and Sawyer got it up to the point,” Haase said, recalling his hat-trick tally. “It went ‘D’ to ‘D’ and I went to the front of the net. I was kind of surprised no one was on me, so I made sure I got the goalie’s eyes. When the shot came, I actually tried moving out of the way and it hit my stick and went in. I got lucky enough on that one.”
Jared Marchi continued his steady production as he added a power-play goal in the third period before Haase chipped in with his fourth goal of the night for good measure.
By the time the buzzer finally sounded, Haase had racked up four goals and an assist, bringing his season totals to 21 goals and 18 assists through 29 games.
Not to be overlooked was a three-assist performance from Sawyer Hunt, who once against skated on Haase’s flank, opposite Eric Buckley. Buckley had two helpers of his own. Defenceman Jordan Busch added another two assists.The trio of 20-year-olds — Buckley, Marchi and Busch — are now holding down three of the top four slots atop the KIJHL scoring leaderboard.
Buckley has collected 17 goals and 52 points through 37 points, to sit second overall behind Rainer Glimpel of the Osoyoos Coyotes (20-38-58).
Marchi (19-32-51) and Busch (7-44-51) are hot on Buckley’s heels in third and fourth overall.
Brouwer was good on 19 of 20 shots, to earn his league-leading 23rd victory of the campaign.
At the other end of the rink, Lefebvre turned aside 23 of 29 shots in the Creston cage.
Next up, the Dynamiters hit the highway for a pair of road games this weekend, facing the Golden Rockets (4-30-1-2) Friday (7 p.m.) before taking on the Grand Forks Border Bruins (16-17-0-3) Saturday night (8 p.m.).