It took four tries, but after three tight games, the Kimberley Dynamiters were finally able to get past the Fernie Ghostriders Saturday night, earning a 4-2 victory heading into a brief holiday break.
“It’s unreal. It’s a nice feeling,” said Kimberley Dynamiters defenceman and alternate captain Jordan Busch following the win. “There was a good crowd out tonight. It was the perfect time to do it. It’s a nice little Christmas gift for all of us. It was a nice job to get [the Ghostriders] tonight and we’re just looking forward to when we get back to play them again.”
Busch took care of business as both ends of the rink Saturday night.
In his own end, the 19-year-old native of Edmonton was able to limit the Ghostriders high-octane group of forwards as only Joel Burgess found enough time and space to beat Nitros goaltender Tyson Brouwer.
Busch was key in blanking Fernie’s leading scorer Doan Smith and a strong supporting cast including Cole Keebler, Justin Peers and Aaron Neufeld.
“He has a very high hockey IQ,” Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks said of Busch. “He sees the ice really well.
“His ability to see the ice, calm things down and make nice little subtle passes out of our end, to me, he’s the best in the league at it.”
The steady defenceman also kickstarted the Kimberley attack in the first period, tying the game 1-1 with a heavy blast from the point that eluded Ghostriders goaltender Jeff Orser.
“[The puck] came off the boards and I knew we had guys going to the net,” Busch said. “I put ‘er on net and I put it in a good place.”
After Brady Revie and Burgess exchanged second-period markers, Alex Rosolowsky took a pass from below the goal line and put another high puck past Orser to give the hosts a 3-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“We’ve got a younger team, a younger group of guys and we’re getting better,” Bancks. “We’re starting to learn to play to win, to play for each other a little bit better. That’s the thing you hope for.
“You gamble, when you go young, that it’s going to bite you in the butt. But if we’ve got character kids, they get better. You can work them really hard. We’ve got a group of kids that aren’t afraid to work really hard. We were short [Saturday] and it didn’t really catch us. In the third period, I thought we out skated them. That’s a testament to character as well.”
The Nitros dressed 16 skaters against the Ghostriders, two short of the maximum allowance of 18.
Recently acquired forward Lincoln Lane (illness) joined forwards Marco Campanella (upper body), Sawyer Hunt (upper body), Jordan Roy (collar bone), and defencemen Jonas Gordon (upper body) and Tristan Pagura (upper body) in the sick bay.
The Ghostriders iced a full lineup, but were without regulars Derek Georgopoulos (lower body), captain Dylan Robertson (suspended) and defenceman Matthew Pronchuk (healthy scratch).
Despite being short bodies, the Dynamiters held off the Ghostriders in the third period.
California kid Keenan Haase provided the insurance goal 52 seconds into the final period, using a bit of home-ice advantage to his benefit.
Cruising across the Fernie blue line, the hulking import used the ever-active end wall as his set-up man, firing a pass to himself off the boards, before snapping the puck through the five-hole of Orser.
The unassisted goal gave the Dynamiters a 4-2 lead and that was all she wrote.
Between the pipes, Brouwer was steady as usual, knocking aside 23 pucks for his 16th win of the campaign. At the other end, Orser was victimized four times on 26 tries.
Burgess registered both goals for the Ghostriders. Forward Sam Plaquin earned helpers on both for a two-point night.
The win moves the Dynamiters to 18-12-1-3 (40 points) and within three points of the second-place Golden Rockets (19-13-0-5).
The loss drops the Eddie Mountain Division-leading Ghostriders to 24-5-1-2 (51 points).
“If you get hung up on wins and losses, you can get a little bit discouraged,” Bancks said. “You’ve just got to stick with it and keep playing our game. It’s nice to come out on the good side and you have to learn how to win. That’s an important skill — to believe that you can win.
“That’s what Fernie’s been good at it. They’ve done that to us the first few times. They know how to do it [win]. We’re learning how to do it.”
The Nitros head home for an abbreviated holiday break, before returning to host the Ghostriders Sunday, Dec. 28 (6 p.m.) at the Kimberley Civic Centre. The two teams go right back to it the next night (Monday, Dec. 29 at 7:30 p.m.) in Fernie.
“Spend some time with family back home, friends, get away from the hockey a little bit and enjoy the company of your family and friends,” Busch said of his plans for the reprieve from the rink. “We come back and everybody is excited again to see each other. We’ve got a great group of guys. Everybody wants to get back out on the ice.”
With six regulars out of the lineup and many others sporting bumps and bruises, or fighting illness, the break couldn’t come at a better time for Bancks’ crew.
“These guys need to go home and get healthy,” Bancks said. “So many of them have either had a bug, or they’ve got a bug coming. That’s my biggest thing. Go and have some good times with family and friends, but take care of themselves.
“It’s hectic. And I push these kids hard…They got worn down. They need to go and get rested up as best they can. Hopefully all their mothers spoil the heck out of them. They’ll maybe put on two or three pounds, but I’ll take care of that first practice and away we go.”
With Saturday’s win, the Ghostriders lead the eight-game season series between the two teams with a record of 2-1-1-0. After closing December with a home-and-home series, the Nitros and Ghostriders meet Friday, Jan. 9 in Fernie before closing their season series Friday, Feb. 6 in Kimberley.
“We’ve got to play our game. We’ve got to play smart. We can’t play individually,” Busch said. “We have to play with the systems, play disciplined and if we play our game, we should be fine.”