For two teams yet to see one another in KIJHL play this season, Game 1 of the league championship played out in electrifying fashion Saturday night.
With 4:34 remaining in the third period of a 2-1 hockey game, Kimberley Dynamiters captain Jason Richter brought 1,208 fans to their feet with a roar as he provided the all-important insurance goal late in the game.
The Nitros captain took a two-on-one feed from Braden Saretsky before snapping a shot past Storm goaltender Jacob Mullen to give his team a 3-1 lead.
With Kamloops Storm forward Keaton Gordon closing the gap 2:28 later, Richter’s goal stood as the game-winning tally and the Dynamiters took a 1-0 series lead with a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the KIJHL championship.
“Obviously it’s nice, but like [head coach] Jerry [Bancks] always says, you’ve got to worry about your next shift,” Richter said Saturday night. “We’re going to worry about the next game. It’s a little bit high in the dressing room, but we keep it pretty even keel. Our only worry is on the next game.”
As has been the case for the duration of the post-season, Richter got it done at both ends of the rink Saturday night.
Earlier in the game, the Cranbrook native threw himself in front of a heavy point shot, blocking the blast with his knee, before gingerly making his way back to the bench. The captain didn’t miss a shift.
“At the start of the year, we all pretty much made a promise to the team that we would lay out and block shots no matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts,” Richter said. “You know when you get back to the bench, everyone’s giving you pats on the butt. The pain feels good. It just comes natural now. You just do it.”
A tight-checking, opening 20 minutes of play served as a feeling-out period for two teams yet to have seen one another in the 2014-15 KIJHL season.
“They’re a disciplined team. They skate well. When you play in the rink they play in you better be able to skate or you can’t play in that building. So you knew they’d be a good skating team,” said Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks. “They’re a good team. They’ve got some players you’ve go to keep an eye on…But in terms of adjustments, I think we’ve just got to settle down a little bit in our own zone, make some smart plays and bring the puck out. It was good. It was a great game. What an atmosphere. What a game.”
The two best chances of the first period came around Mullen’s crease, but the 20-year-old native of Coeur D’Alene, Id., was up for the task as he robbed Dynamiters forward Trevor Van Steinburg — stretching out for a pad save — before turning away Braden Saretsky on a glorious opportunity moments later.
Things opened up a bit as the second period rolled around and the “kaboom sticks” rained down the Kimberley Civic Centre after Jared Marchi opened the scoring 11:53 in.
The unofficial Kimberley Dynamiters social media club has popularized the hashtag “#KABOOM” in response to Nitros goals, particularly through the post-season. With the KIJHL championship on tap, fans took the hashtag to a tangible level, raining red wooden sticks resembling dynamite out on the ice following Marchi’s series-opening tally.
“It took me back to the old days when we beat Vernon [Vipers of the BCHL in the Mowat Cup],” Bancks said with a smile. “That used to happen after every goal. No surprise. Whoever did it, good on them.”
With the period winding down, Jordan Roy was sent to the sin bin for cross-checking and the Storm capitalized as Mark O’Shaughnessy snapped a quick shot from the top of the circle and over the shoulder of Nitros goaltender Tyson Brouwer to even the game.
Dynamiters forward Coy Prevost scored the second goal of the game for Kimberley, burning a hot shot past Mullen from the slot 5:26 into the third period.
Brouwer was solid once again, making 25 saves on 27 shots. At the other end, Mullen was victimized three times on 16 shots.
“I think we got what we deserved. We had too many passengers, too many guys that didn’t do what we have done to have success,” Kamloops Storm head coach Ed Patterson told Adam Williams of Kamloops This Week. “You’ve got to win four [games]. It’s fine, we didn’t expect this to be a sweep, by any means, for either team. On the bright side, for us, I thought we only had maybe eight to 10 guys really playing how they should play.
“It’s just one of those games. Back to the drawing board.”
Game 2 of the KIJHL championship goes back at the Kimberley Civic Centre Sunday night at 7 p.m. The series takes a travel break on Monday before firing up with Game 3 scheduled for Tuesday night at McArthur Park Arena in Kamloops.
Notes: The Storm went 1-for-1 on the power play…The Nitros went without a power-play opportunity as Kamloops avoided the penalty box… Storm F Felix Larouche tallied two assists, as did Nitros F Braden Saretsky…
The Townsman/Bulletin has you covered for the KIJHL championship as sports editor Taylor Rocca will be headed to Kamloops for Games 3 & 4. For live updates, follow Taylor on Twitter (@taylorrocca) and keep eyes on dailytownsman.com/kijhl/ for nightly game stories.
KIJHL Eddie Mountain Division vice president Phil Iddon was on hand to present the Kimberley Dynamiters with the Kootenay Conference championship banner prior to puck drop of Game 1 of the KIJHL championship Saturday night. From left to right: Defenceman Jordan Busch, forward Jared Marchi, defenceman Tyler Kinnon, forward Jason Richter and Phil Iddon. // Taylor Rocca Photo