Entering game five of the KIJHL Finals, the Revelstoke Grizzlies and Kimberley Dynamiters had split the series with each team winning their home games.
The winner of game five would be one game away from finishing the series, and the Kimberley Dynamiters were at home, and therefore had an edge.
The Nitros got off to a quick start as Bryce McDonald scored 1:14 into the game.
“It was a huge lift for the team,” McDonald said after the game. “I love scoring against them every night. I want to score against them three goals a night if I can.”
The goal was McDonald’s 10th of the post season, and he has found an extra gear in the playoffs.
“It is more less working harder and not necessarily caring about who is scoring the goals and just worry about the results,” He said. “My teammates have been doing an excellent job at finding me and I have just been getting to the right spots.”
Minutes later, Cooper Page gave the Dynamiters a massive two goal a mere 6:25 into the period.
Nicholas Ketola, who is known more for his penalty kill prowess, would score two power play goals. The first he tipped in with 1:38 remaining in the second period – a timely goal. The next was at the midway point in the third. With those goals, the Nitros had a commanding 4-0 lead with 10:34 remaining in the game.
Cam Russell gave the Nitros a 5-0 lead, as he busted in alone and willed his way to the net, scoring on the backhand.
The Grizzlies had a moment where they thought they scored, but the goal was waved off.
Then in strange fashion, like how basketball players hold the ball to run down the final seconds of the clock, captain Brett Roberts secured the puck and held it behind the net, running down over 30 seconds of play. The Grizzlies didn’t press, and the Nitros won Game Five.
“I liked our tenacity and our hunger for getting to the net before pucks were there,” Nitros head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said after the game. “That was one area that was lacking [in games three and four]. Tonight we did an outstanding job of driving to the net without pucks.”
Goaltender Campbell added, “we showed tonight that we really are the better team.”
Campbell was named the Home Star of the Game as he earned his third shutout of the post season making 21 saves.
“I was seeing pucks well, the guys were clearing the net for me. I feel great, never felt better. Hopefully carry that into tomorrow night,” he said.
“Campbell is good,” Stuart said. “He played the puck a little more than I would have liked. He was really good when he needed to be.
“Our defence really stepped up, especially guys like Roberts and Harrison Risdon. Risdon was one of our best players on the ice tonight.”
The Nitros dressed two local affiliate players: Erik Delaire and Braiden Koran.
“They were both great. They were both excellent. They both deserve a chance to play, they are both capable of playing, as they showed,” said Stuart. “In Koran’s case we wanted to get some fresh legs, a guy that is very hungry and eager to go out there. He finished a lot checks, and was very effective.”
It’s a short turn around, as game six is Friday night in Revelstoke. The Grizzlies opted to take the bus home Thursday night, while the Nitros will sleep in their own beds and then travel to Revelstoke Friday morning.
“We need to play the same way,” Stuart said when asked what his team needs to do in game six. “If we can carry the driving to the net and creating more chances into tomorrow that should hopefully get us the result we want.”
As for the distraction of being a single game away from winning the KIJHL Championships and advancing to the Cyclone Taylor Cup, Campbell says it will be a challenge.
“It’s definitely not going to be easy,” said Campbell. “We have a really great opportunity. As a team, we are really excited. At the same time we know what it took tonight in order to give us that opportunity.”
“[Managing the excitement] will be the toughest part, I am assuming,” Stuart said. “Trying to play just a shift at a time and not thinking about what could happen. There is a lot of work for us to do to get the result we want.
“We don’t want to come back here [for game seven], hopefully that was our last game of the year here [at home]. If it takes two, we will come to that when we get to it. But we are heading to Revelstoke tomorrow with the intent of finishing the series.”
Game six is at the Revelstoke Forum at 8:00 pm MDT.