The Kimberley Dynamiters never used injuries as an excuse for anything, even when their dreams of a repeat performance on the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s biggest stage were dashed at the conclusion of a 2-1 loss in Game 5 of the league championship series Thursday night in 100 Mile House.
“It’s not an excuse, because everybody has injuries,” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, following Game 5 of the KIJHL championship Thursday in 100 Mile House. “The run we went on last year, in order for that to happen, you have to have some luck, you have to have some bounces, some timely goals, some timely saves, some crossbars and then you have to be healthy.
“Every team has their bangs and their bruises, but you’ve got to have some luck.”
Excuse or not, there is absolutely no question that a multitude of serious injuries to key components weighed heavily into the Dynamiters demise against a rough-and-tumble 100 Mile House Wranglers squad that admittedly loved to “bang bodies” according to Brady Ward, a native of Prince Rupert, who tallied the championship-clinching marker Thursday night with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
The number of walking wounded began to grow as early as November and with each hard-fought series, the bangs and bruises slowly became that much more severe.
Captain Jason Richter sits at the top of the list. The 2015 KIJHL scoring champion suffered a dislocated rib in November, after which the team shut him down until the final weekend of the regular season.
“[Shutting him down] didn’t do any good because the first time he got hit he was right back to where he was,” Bancks said. “He persevered and these kids see that.
“I haven’t slept for probably three weeks now, because I wonder how long can this continue? Every time you win a round, you know he has to go through it again. But it’s all part of the game. It’s a very, very important part of the game.”
Richter, a 19-year-old native of Cranbrook and commit to the University of Jamestown’s fledging American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Div. I program had been getting frozen before each game in order to play through the pain.
But for Game 5 of the KIJHL championship, the 5-foot-8 spitfire took a pass on the treatment and gutted it out to the final buzzer.
Midway through the third period, the Kimberley captain was crunched along the boards at centre ice hard enough to send his helmet flying to the playing surface. Calmly and without so much as a wince, Richter picked up his bucket, returned to the Dynamiters bench and after catching his wind, didn’t miss a shift.
“I’ve never seen a human being as tough as him,” Bancks said.
“That’s all he knows and people have no idea — what you see in games I get in every practice. Every practice. Not once in a while. Not 90 per cent of the time. That’s what I get from him every practice.”
Despite the injury, Richter didn’t miss a beat during the post-season, leading his team in scoring with eight goals and 19 points through 19 games.
Most recently, defenceman Tyler Van Steinburg suffered an acromioclavicular (AC) separation during Game 4 of the KIJHL championship. The AC joint forms where the collarbone meets the highest point of the shoulder blade.
“He was given the okay,” Bancks said of Van Steinburg playing Game 5. “But I can promise you last year he wouldn’t have played had he not been around this group this year. But he went out and played.”
Prior to that, rugged defenceman Justin Meier — who watched Game 5 from the stands on crutches while wearing a heavy knee brace — suffered a torn ACL during Game 3 of the league championship and could face four to five months recovery time.
In Game 2 of the KIJHL championship, Revelstoke native Brodie Buhler suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Veteran forward Jared Marchi was hampered by separated rib cartilage since mid-February.
California product Keenan Haase suffered a separated shoulder early in the post-season.
“Our power play struggled, but if you’ve been following the series, you’ll see that Keenan Haase and Jason Richter are the key shooters on our power play,” Bancks said. “Both of them were injured and couldn’t shoot the puck like they’d like to. They couldn’t and that’s part of the reason we struggled on the power play.
“But you can’t not give them the opportunity. We talked a lot about taking Jason off the power play. But no, when you do what he has done for this organization for all the time he’s been here, he gets the right to do that. I’ll go to the grave saying that was the right choice, because he deserves it.”
Defenceman Jordan Busch missed a game after being on the receiving end of a check to the head in Game 3 of the Kootenay Conference championship against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
After Game 3 of the Eddie Mountain Division semifinal, rookie forward James Rota was absent form the lineup and only seen around the rink with a cast on his arm.
Rookie forward Austyn Moser missed time with an ankle injury.
Oft forgotten, even by many Dynamiters faithful, is the loss of defenceman Tristan Pagura and forward Jesse Wallace early on during the 2015-16 regular season.
Wallace was a vital member of the Dynamiters 2015 KIJHL championship and Pagura was destined to be one of the league’s top puck-moving defencemen, according to Bancks.
Playoff hockey is an all-out war at any level, and this season, the Dynamiters simply got the worst of it. But they never gave up.
“These stories will be there for Kimberley Minor Hockey and Cranbrook Minor Hockey as well,” Bancks said. “What these kids have done is kind of neat.”
While many of Bancks’ warriors are set to move on, each was critical in the capturing of the 2015 KIJHL championship followed by the league’s 2016 regular season crown.
There’s absolutely no reason for these kids to hang their heads as they helped remind junior hockey fans across the province what Kimberley Dynamiters hockey is all about.
Matchsticks: Dynamiters general manager Mike Reid confirmed Sunday afternoon that forward Keenan Haase (1996) has committed to the New England College Pilgrims NCAA Division III hockey program for the 2016-17 season… Haase, a native of Mission Viejo, Calif., joins Tyson Brouwer, Eric Buckley, Justin Meier and Jason Richter as Dynamiters heading south of the border for college hockey come 2016-17. Brouwer, Buckley, Meier and Richter are all set to play for the University of Jamestown Jimmies (ACHA Div. I)… Defenceman Jordan Busch, 21, is also off to college as he is set to suit up for Concordia University of Edmonton (ACAC)…