The Kimberley Dynamiters continue to pursue the KIJHL regular-season title with two games remaining on the schedule and a pair of victories will guarantee the league crown.
Friday night (7 p.m.) at the Kimberley Civic Centre, the Nitros play their final regular-season home game, hosting the Golden Rockets (5-42-1-3) before closing out the campaign in Sparwood against the Fernie Ghostriders (27-19-0-4) Saturday night (7:30 p.m.).
“We have to get our lineup together,” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, regarding preparation for the post-season. “We’ve played without some key players for a long time…We’ve got to fine-tune how to play in the playoffs.”
First and foremost, Bancks will be getting arguably his most key player back in the lineup beginning Friday night as captain Jason Richter returns after missing the past 17 games due to an upper-body injury.
Dynamiters general manager Mike Reid confirmed Richter had been given the all-clear from doctors and is set to be in the lineup Friday when the Rockets visit the Civic Centre.
Richter, of course, led the KIJHL in scoring during the 2014-15 season with 39 goals and 70 points in 52 games. The 5-foot-8 Cranbrook native and recent commit to the University of Jamestown was well on pace to once again compete for a league scoring title in 2015-16, having compiled 25 goals and 49 points in only 31 games before being sidelined.
Other than Richter, defencemen Justin Meier and Trey Doell remain on the mend, though both have skated heading into the weekend. Tyler Van Steinburg was also absent from last weekend’s lineup.
In regards to the title chase, the Dynamiters (39-7-0-4) hold a two-point advantage on the Osoyoos Coyotes (39-9-1-1) for the KIJHL crown.
Both teams have two games remaining, with the Coyotes set to face the Kamloops Storm (32-13-1-4) Saturday before finishing the campaign against the Kelowna Chiefs (23-24-2-1) Sunday.
The Dynamiters control their fate and can guarantee a KIJHL league title by collecting victories in their final two contests.
“Jerry [Bancks] likes to say it’s not a switch you can flick on or off for the post-season,” said Dynamiters forward Tanner Wit. “The challenge was to get geared up, get ready for playoffs and win out every game. We’ve got to come out and play as hard as we can every game from now on.
“Working on your habits, making sure those are nailed down — being strong on the puck, moving your feet at all times. If you build good habits going into the post-season, good things are going to happen, especially with a team like this where everyone is supporting at the same time. As long as you know your role and you lock that down going into the post-season, it makes it a lot easier.”
The Dynamiters have sealed up home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of the KIJHL post-season, but have yet to learn the identity of their first-round opponent as the Ghostriders and Rockies continue to battle for position in the Eddie Mountain Division.
One way or another, the Dynamiters will open the KIJHL post-season Tuesday at the Kimberley Civic Centre (7 p.m.) when they host either Fernie or Columbia Valley in Game 1 of the Eddie Mountain Division semifinal.