Christmas came a little bit early for Nitro forward Jason Richter.
Forechecking in the offensive zone in the dying seconds of the game, he forced a turnover and poked the puck into an empty net, however, play transitioned back down the ice before the referees called it a goal.
“It was a bit of a gift,” said Richter. “I was working hard for it, but I kind of just got lucky and he gave it up for me.”
That would complete his hat trick, as the Kimberley Dynamiters defeated the Columbia Valley Rockies on Tuesday night at the Civic Centre.
Richter scored twice in the opening period, and added the empty netter for his hat trick, while Eric Buckley potted the other goal for the Nitros.
Dynamiters goaltender Jeremy Mousseau faced a measly 15 shots and only allowed one goal for the win, while Rockies netminder Stewart Pratt surrendered four goals in 28 shots.
Despite the win, Kimberley found themselves down early, when Stephen Pratt out skated the Dynamiters defence for a puck and went in on Mousseau all alone for a breakaway goal.
However, that didn’t seem the faze the Dynamiters bench, said Richter.
“Sometimes when we get down early, our bench kind of dies, but tonight we really tried to focus on keeping the bench up, celebrating the positives and not letting the negatives get us down,” he said.
Richter struck for his first goal on the powerplay, streaking into the offensive zone on a rush, and throwing the puck on net, which trickled through Pratt.
With the seconds ticking down on the period, Jared Marchi went into Rockies territory on the forecheck while killing a penalty. He forced a turnover and fed Richter in front of the net, who buried his second to give the Nitros a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The two teams held each other scoreless in the middle period, although both had some chances to get on the scoreboard.
Buckley tallied in the third period, sneaking a shot by Pratt at the halfway mark of the frame to spot his team to a two-goal lead.
Richter finished off his hat trick with 10 seconds left in the game, stripping the puck off a Rockies defenceman and barely shovelled it across the line. The goal lamp lit up, but Columbia Valley collected the puck and moved back up the ice before the referees whistled down the play to award a goal.
Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks praised his goaltender for staying focused in goal—a job that required only 14 saves all night.
“We kept the shots under 20, I believe, and those are hard games for a goalie and he’s got to learn to play those games,” said Bancks. “I know if we give up 30 or 40, he’ll be in it and be good, but tonight was one of those games he’s got to learn to play and I thought he was great and made some big saves when he needed to.”
The game also featured the arrival of the new guy, Tyler Garcia, a big six-foot forward who came via the Nelson Leafs.
“Really happy with our new guy, Tyler Garcia,” continued Bancks. “I thought he had a phenomenal game. Really well coached, had a lot of good hits out there, could’ve had some goals, so exactly what we needed.”
The win covers some ground as Kimberley faces a seven-point deficit against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats for first place in the Eddie Mountain Division. Fernie trails the Nitros by only four points to occupy third place in the divisional standings.
The Nitros lost to the T-Cats last weekend in a 6-3 decision in Creston on Saturday night.
“They’ve got some skilled guys, but I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Richter. “Just stay focused and ready to play a full 60 [minutes].”
Nelson and Kamloops are currently duking it out for first overall in league standings, and are tied at 46 points.