The Kimberley Dynamiters did an admirable job during the 2018-19 season as they defended their 2018 KIJHL title.
At the start of the season, there was a lot of questions. The camp was filled with new faces, as at the time of camp, there were only eight returning players: Derian Bamber, Brandt Bertoia, Lucas Chilton, Chase Gedny, Bryce McDonald, Brock Palmer, and Luke Recchi.
“We had a lot of question marks early in the year,” head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said reflecting on the season.
At the start of the season, assistant coach Jeff Keiver said that fans could expect new faces, and “a younger team that is fast, likely with higher scoring games.”
That’s just what happened. The Nitros games had an average nine goals in them, this declined to six goals a game on average by the post season.
In September, the Nitros lost two out of eight games, then for the remainder of the regular season they only lost three more games in 41 games.
Stuart praised the team for gelling together quickly.
As the Dynamiters started to have success, they kept adding key players to bolster the lineup.
First was the surprise, but welcome return of Cam Russell.
“It was a huge boost. He’s a really great all around player in every aspect of the game.” Stuart said. “It gave us the McDowell, Russell, down the middle, one-two punch.
“It was pretty significant, and was definitely the first turning point.”
Next the Dynamiters acquired depth down the middle, acquiring the Castlegar Rebels assistant captain, Brady Daniels. Daniels was apart of the Rebels amazing winstreak the previous season, and said when he was acquired that he could feel something special with the Nitros and their ability to string wins together.
Then the Nitros tangoed with their division opponent the Columbia Valley Rockies to acquire the Rockies captain Ryan Skytt. Then they added even more leadership by acquiring the captain of the Castlegar Rebels, defender Kole Halvorson.
“The guys we had were playing so good, we were in first place, top five in the league. The players forced us to make this a championship team.
“That’s more than a coach could ever want, is for a team to force his hand like that.”
In the mix of those trades the Nitros went on a massive 12-game winning streak, that came to a screeching halt at the hands of the Fernie Ghostriders.
The Nitros also lost one of their 20 year old players to injury. Bryce McDonald broke his leg and he made an incredible effort to score on a fast break.
Despite the heart-ache of losing a teammate, the Nitros found the motivation to string together another winning streak that would last several rounds into the playoffs.
“We really gelled,” Stuart said, “after January 10th, and everyone knows they are here for sure, it is a huge relief, and they can just go have fun and play hockey.
“The guys had a lot of fun out there in practice and in a lot of the games.
“When you get guys that like playing with eachother and for eachother than it is really is to have fun if they are working hard and having success.”
In the first round, the Dynamiters downed divisional opponent the Golden Rockets in four game. They would then sweep the Fernie Ghostriders to take the Eddie Mountain Division.
After winning the Eddie Mountain Division, Stuart said, “we are just expecting to win every game that we play.”
It would take until Game Four of the Kootenay Conference Finals against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks for the Nitros to lose a game, winning an astounding 25 games in a row.
Sadly after that loss, the Nitros would only win two of their next six games.
One win would be good enough to become the Kootenay Conference Champions, and enter the KIJHL Finals for the fourth time in five years.
“To get there was a great testament to the guys and how hard they work.
“They worked extremely hard, and got themselves to the finals.”
In the Finals, injuries would start to pile up, and the Nitros would only be able to muster one win as they faced an incredibly hot goalie. A goalie, for the record, that would lead the Revelstoke Grizzlies not just to being the KIJHL Champions, but also the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
Now that the season is done, the players have returned home.
It’s too early to tell who is returning for next season, Stuart said, so for now he will be going to junior identification camps in Calgary and Edmonton.
Lastly, Stuart expressed gratitude for Nitro Nation, and the amazing fan support.
“On behalf of the team and fans, I’d like to thank the fans for another phenomenal year of support and loyalty.
“It’s amazing everytime they come out. It’s very loud in there, the boys love it, and it is one my biggest recruiting tools.”
The Dynamiters will be holding their annual general meeting in the coming weeks. It is a great opportunity for fans to see how they can be involved with the team.