The Kimberley Dynamiters are once again regular season league champions of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. This is the second time in three years the Dynamiters have won the league. They edged out Revelstoke by one point, 83 to 82.
The Nitros knew going into the weekend that if they won both games, they would win the regular season, and they did just that, defeating the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, 3-2 on Friday at the Civic Centre, and the Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-2 on Saturday.
And with the regular season over, the Dynamiters can now prepare for the playoffs beginning this weekend. Creston will be their opponent.
Nitro Head Coach and General Manager Derek Stuart said that the team set first half and second half goals this year.
“Winning the league title was a second half goal,” he said.
“A big factor is the culture here, the returning players and players learning from them. There’s a desire to be competitive. The players themselves carry that tradition.”
But with that, Stuart says it’s good to get the playoffs started, and he’s looking forward to Friday’s game against Creston.
“They’re a very hard working team,” Stuart said. “Scrappy, they keep hanging in there. They’re much improved over last year. They are gong to be a worthy opponent.”
The Dynamiters head to the playoffs relatively healthy. The only player out with an injury is Cam Reid, who broke his wrist a couple of weeks ago.
“He’s three weeks into a four to five week recovery,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get him back should we go further into the playoffs. It’s unfortunate for Cam, but we’ll take only one injury heading into the playoffs.”
Stuart says the lack of injury is a credit to how hard the players work to stay in shape, and a great team of coaches and trainers.
Another big milestone this weekend was league scoring leader Brock Palmer getting his 50th goal of the season.
“I think it’s very unusual to get 50 in a season. You basically have to score a goal a game. It’s an extraordinary feat, especially since he only played 49 games.”
The Dynamiters will receive the league trophy on Friday prior to the game and Stuart says he hopes it fires the team up.
“We didn’t have this trophy presentation two years ago when we won the league, so I don’t really know how they’ll react. Hopefully it will fire them up, but at the same time they will have to be mentally tough because there will be about ten minutes of presentations before the game. But I think the boys will be fired up.”
The Dynamiters will continue to rotate goalies through the playoffs, Stuart said, a tactic that worked through the regular season.
“We’ve got two of the best goalies in the league. We’ll talk with staff and make a decision before each game. Our goalies are both mature enough to be ready to play.”
The best of seven series against Creston begins 7 p.m. this Friday at the Civic Centre. The rest of the games are scheduled for Saturday, February 29 in Kimberley, Monday, March 2 and Tuesday, March 3 in Creston Thursday, March 5 in Kimberley, Friday the 6th in Creston and game seven, if required, in Kimberley on Sunday, March 8.
All photos Colin Ferguson/Syltography