In the history book of Kimberley hockey, the 2014-15 edition of the Kimberley Dynamiters is in the midst of penning a very special chapter of its own and the ink hasn’t run out yet.
The Dynamiters ensured the chronicle carried on as they advanced to the 2015 KIJHL Championship with a 5-1 defeat of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in Game 5 of the Kootenay Conference final Tuesday night in Fruitvale.
“I’m a big believer that life is a scrapbook and it’s up to you to create the pages,” said Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks. “As a group, we’ve created some pages so far and hopefully we can keep going.”
It has been 35 years since a Junior B hockey team in Kimberley made an appearance in the KIJHL championship series, with the 1979-80 Kimberley Knights being the last to do so.
“It feels awesome. This is the best group I’ve ever worked with,” Bancks said. “I’m a big believer that good things happen to good people and I’m just so happy for everyone of these kids. It’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Bancks and the Dynamiters booked their ticket to the KIJHL championship in serious fashion Tuesday night as they knocked off the defending league-champion Beaver Valley Nitehawks — a team that also happened to win the 2014 Cyclone Taylor Cup as B.C. Junior B champions and 2014 Keystone Cup as Western Canadian Junior B champions.
“They’re a good team. Strong, strong on their sticks and forecheck hard,” Bancks said. “A lot of credit goes to them.”
Bancks described it as an “honour” to have played a team of the calibre presented by the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
With the game hardly 16 minutes old, defenceman Tyler Kinnon scored the game-winning goal with a long point shot that found a hole in Nitehawks goaltender Carson Schamerhorn.
Nitehawks forward Jacob Boyczuk, who returned from suspension for Game 5, clawed his team back within one as he scored a power-play goal midway through the second period.
But that’s as close as it got for the Nitehawks as the Dynamiters scored three third-period goals to put the game and series out of reach.
Braden Saretsky continued his hot pace with a power-play goal — his 13th tally in 16 playoff games — to start the third period before Trevor Van Steinburg added to the lead with 5:28 to play. California kid Keenan Haase iced the victory with an empty-net goal in the final 30 seconds of regulation.
“We’ve got tremendous leadership right from top to bottom,” Bancks said. “Nobody blocks shots at this level the way we do. There are people that play for thousands of dollars that won’t do what some of these kids will do and that comes from the leadership. They’ve all bought into it and it’s a character group.
“If you notice in the third period, that’s where we won this series and probably all the other series as well. That comes from a group you can push really hard.”
Tyson Brouwer was his usual steady self, turning aside 46 shots, including an incredible 40 saves through the first 40 minutes of play, to backstop his team to a Kootenay Conference championship.
A return to the KIJHL championship is something long-awaited for Junior B hockey fans in Kimberley, with the 1979-80 Kimberley Knights being the last Kimberley-based KIJHL team to make a trip to the league final.
The Knights eventually went on to win the 1979-80 KIJHL championship, defeating the Trail Smoke Eaters.
For Bancks, assistant coach Jeff Keiver and many others involved in today’s Dynamiters organization, a league championship came about in more recent memory.
Bancks was the coach and Keiver a player with the 1998-99 Kimberley Dynamiters, a team which competed in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain Junior A Hockey League (RMJHL).
That edition of the Dynamiters earned the last RMJHL title in league history before going on to be the only RMJHL team to ever win a game over a BCHL opponent in Mowat Cup play — the B.C. Junior A championship bringing together the BCHL and RMJHL champions.
“I would consider it a part of the Dynamiters history, for sure,” Bancks said. “A lot of the same fan base, a lot of the same volunteers…That’s a very special year. It’s definitely a part of the Kimberley history.
“I’m just so thrilled for the people who have been involved with this team for so many years.”
The last time Kimberley won a junior-hockey championship of any kind, Bancks was at the helm.
The last time Kimberley won a KIJHL championship, Bancks was skating out his final CIS-playing days with the University of Calgary.
When the final buzzer sounded at the Beaver Valley Arena, Dynamiters fans in attendance could be heard celebrating over the broadcast.
Meanwhile, social media exploded as fans tweeted their congratulations and excitement over the return of championship hockey to the City of Kimberley.
“When I left the Kootenay Ice, it was out of a sense of civic duty,” Bancks said. “The Dynamiters has always been an important part of the community. It’s a focal point for many people and a gathering place. It’s so important and I’m so thrilled for some of the people that have been Dynamiter fans — it’s 35 years since a Junior B team has gotten as far as we have. I’m so happy for those people because they deserve it.
“This is the best organization in the KIJHL and that’s because of the fan base…You’ll come back to Kimberley for the rest of your life if you play hockey in Kimberley and it’s because of the way the people treat us. That’s what it’s all about.”
Fans in Kimberley will be treated to Games 1 and 2 of the KIJHL Championship as the Dynamiters hold home-ice advantage over a Kamloops Storm team that advanced from the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference by defeating the KIJHL’s regular-season champion, the Osoyoos Coyotes, in five games.
Game dates and times are still to be determined.
Though the next chapter remains to be written, what has been determined is the 2014-15 KIJHL season will go down in Kimberley hockey history as one of the best.
Nitehawks goaltender Carson Schamerhorn looks over his shoulder as a shot from Tyler Kinnon (far right at blue line, #4) finds the back of the net. The goal was Kinnon’s first of the post-season and stood as both the game- and series-winning marker. // Jim Bailey Photo/Trail Daily Times