Through four games of the KIJHL championship, home-ice advantage rings true.
After the Kimberley Dynamiters claimed Games 1 and 2 this past weekend, the Kamloops Storm ventured home and returned the favour.
“I was proud of the boys, the way they came out hard, showed some desperation, but confidence to go along with it,” Storm head coach Ed Patterson told Adam Williams of Kamloops This Week.
After a 3-2 double-overtime thriller in Game 3, the Storm followed up with a resounding victory in Game 4, blanking the visiting Nitros by a 4-0 final.
“I don’t think we were ready to play,” said Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks. “They out-physicalled [sic] us the first period or two and took advantage of their power plays. I just don’t think we were ready to play.”
Doing the heaviest damage early on and with the man advantage was Storm forward Mitch Friesen.
The former Kamloops Blazer proved more than enough offence for the Storm in this one, opening the scoring less than seven minutes into the festivities with a tap-in tally on the doorstep.
“He’s been fantastic,” Patterson said of Friesen. “It has been nice to see him regain his confidence and start playing stronger, taking pucks to the net, be a more of a physical force.
“The boys follow his lead. He has done a great job.”
A little less than 10 minutes after opening the scoring, Friesen found pay dirt once again — this time on the power play — taking a bounce in front of Nitros goaltender Tyson Brouwer and putting it past the helpless net minder for a 2-0 Kamloops lead after 20 minutes.
“[Friesen] is probably the focal point of their power play — good player. Really good player. We have to be aware when they’re on the ice and play harder,” Bancks said. “It was too soft in front of our net — easy little tap-in goals. They got some weird bounces that ended up in the back of our net, but if those players are being tied up or physically removed, they’re not there to tap them in. We’ve got to be more physical. That’s the number-one thing I’d like to see from us — be more physical and win more battles.”
Brouwer did all he could to keep his team in Game 4, but at the end of the night it just wasn’t enough.
Kootenay Ice prospect Max Patterson and forward Ian Chrystal added a pair of rebound goals to round out the scoring and Jacob Mullen turned aside 34 shots for the shutout.
“He does let out a couple rebounds, but we definitely should have buried. We’ve got to get it up top on him,” said Dynamiters captain Jason Richter of Mullen. “He gets down pretty low, leaves the top of the net pretty wide open. We didn’t get it up high enough tonight and didn’t bury enough rebounds.
“I don’t think we came out hard enough. The first game [in Kamloops] we had some bad bounces in the third period, but second game, we definitely weren’t up and ready to go. We had a good third period, but our first and second we definitely came out slow.”
Even when the Nitros turned the heat up in the third period, a focused Mullen was there to turn them away.
Coy Prevost found himself with a particularly glorious opportunity to break the shutout bid for the native of Couer d’Alene, but Mullen flashed a bright yellow glove to rob the Eddie Mountain Division rookie of the year.
“I could tell he was in the zone, just the way he was finding pucks thought traffic and competing for pucks,” Patterson said of Mullen. “I had all the confidence in the world.”
Friesen, along with linemates Patterson and Bobby Kashuba were deadly for the Storm in Games 3 and 4.
While Friesen had two goals Wednesday night, Kashuba had two helpers.
Patterson — a 2014 fourth-round pick (77th overall) of the Kootenay Ice — has been, arguably, the Storm’s best player in the series.
The 6-foot-3, 165-pound 15-year-old Kamloops native turned in another impressive performance with a goal and an assist. He has now registered three goals and five points in five playoff games since joining the Storm after his season with the Okanagan Hockey Academy came to a close.
The Nitros were straight back on the bus and on the road out of Kamloops immediately following Wednesday’s setback. Thursday will serve as a rest day for the Dynamiters, while the Storm will hop the bus and trek back to Kimberley for Game 5.
Game 5 of the KIJHL championship is scheduled for Friday night (7 p.m. MT) at the Kimberley Civic Centre.