It was an emotional finale in a home and home series between the Kimberley Dynamiters and the Fernie Ghostriders on Sunday night.
After losing 4-2 in Fernie the night before, the Nitros hosted their divisional rivals and skated away with a 7-3 win despite losing four players to injury.
“We fought through a lot of adversity,” said Nitro head coach Jerry Bancks. “Basically as the night went on we lost four key players, one in the warmup and three more as the game went on and for a time there it was a little gloomy, but I think the coaching staff did a great job of getting them to believe that it doesn’t really matter who you lose, it’s opportunity.
“You hate to see someone get injured, but in the world of hockey, injuries are opportunity. So some guys got to play on the powerplay, got more ice time and they stepped up and believed in themselves, so I thought it was a really good character win.”
Despite losing forward Jared Marchi in the warmup, Kimberley jumped off to a hot start, and were rewarded with a goal from Marco Campanella, who snapped in a one-timer on a great feed from Brady Revie behind the net.
However, Joel Burgess tied it up for the Riders in the latter half of the frame with a tap-in at the side of the net.
Just before the final minute kicked off, Dylan Sibbald streaked down the right wing and roofed a wrist shot top shelf from inside the face-off circle.
Heading into the second period, the Nitros continued to build on their lead.
Brandon Becker, a call-up player, got his first career KIJHL goal, snapping up a loose puck and beating Fernie goaltender Austin Wells with a wrist shot.
Fernie cut into the lead a minute later when Aidan Geiger found himself all alone in front of Kimberley netminder Jeremy Mousseau and deked the puck into the net.
Tyson Klingspohn tallied on a powerplay opportunity to restore the two goal lead after the Riders started getting into penalty trouble.
Near the halfway mark of the game, Revie took a hit near the player benches and went down.
Play was halted and both teams eventually sent to their dressing rooms while athletic trainers, coaches and paramedics surrounded the Nitro forward and stretchered him off the ice.
Earlier in the game, Jason Richter also headed to the dressing room after getting hit into a gate that popped open while rushing down the boards.
“We knew we just had to keep our heads down and stick to our game plan and pretty much just say we gotta win it for those guys who are out,” said Andrew Miller.
After Revie was taken off the ice, play resumed and Alex Rosolowsky increased Kimberley’s lead to three goals, roofing the puck after taking a slick feed from Jordan Busch.
During the middle frame, Kimberley lost captain Darren Martin who was tossed for chasing Kale Johnston around the ice after the Fernie forward delivered a check from behind. Johnston was also ejected for the infraction.
The Nitros kept up the pressure in the third period, after receiving a four-minute powerplay on a high-sticking penalty that the Fernie bench took exception to, and a coach was punished with a game ejection.
Bryce Perpelitz made the Riders pay with the man-advantage, capitalizing five minutes into the period.
Fernie finally responded on an odd-man rush as Burgess fed Ben Primeau, who slipped the puck five-hole while heading in alone on Mousseau.
Miller answered back for Kimberley late in the game, ripping a shot from inside the offensive zone face-off circle to cap off the scoring.
The Dynamiters also lost Tristan Pagura late in the game with an upper-body injury, according to Bancks.
Mosseau picked up the win with 26 saves while Wells made 27 saves in defeat for Fernie.
Though Kimberley lost the night before, Bancks said he was happy with the effort his team gave in the Fernie Memorial Arena.
The two teams traded goals in the opening period, but Fernie broke the game open in the second frame, scoring twice, while Kimberley only responded once.
The two teams added a goal in the final period, but Fernie held on to it’s one-goal lead to take the edge.
“I thought their goalie won the game for them—all the credit to him,” said Bancks. “…They’re a tough team to play against. They’re physically stronger probably, but I thought we did well.”
Dylan Robertson got the scoring started on a shorthanded effort with five minutes to go in the opening period, but Eric Buckley answered back in the final 90 seconds to even it up.
Aaron Neufeld and Anthony Gilbert scored consecutive goals in the middle frame before Rosolowsky answered back for Kimberley.
Kurtis Bond put the Riders ahead with a two-goal lead in the final period before Tyler Kinnon tallied for Kimberley, however, the Nitros were unable to complete the comeback.
Jeremy Mousseau took the loss in net with 29 saves while Phoenix Logan-Hill was busy in goal for Fernie with 37 stops.