The Kimberley Dynamiters are the KIJHL Champions for the second time since 2015, as they downed the Revelstoke Grizzlies 5-3 in game six last Friday evening.
Kimberley had a difficult task ahead of them, winning a game on the road in Revelstoke. The last time the Dynamiters won a game on the road was game six of the Kootenay Conference, a 2-1 overtime victory against the Nelson Leafs.
Over 1,000 fans filled the Revelstoke Forum and were an intimidating presence. The Grizz fed off of their enthusiasm, firing an astounding 21 shots on Nitro’s Cody Campbell – 21 shots was the total amount of shots the Grizz had in Game Five!
In their ferocious first period, Grizz leading scorer Jordan Robertson got them on the board first.
“To be honest, we laid into in the first intermission,” head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said. “We were a little bit intimidated by the crowd noise and by how hard the [Grizzlies] came out. We sat on our heels and relied on Campbell.
“In a not so nice way, let them know that wasn’t why we were here, and that wasn’t going to get the job done.
“Sometimes you have to do that with a team, and they responded the right way.”
In the second, Cam Russell stole the puck at centre ice and then scored on the breakaway. Tie game.
Forty seconds later the Grizz regained their one goal lead with a goal by Harrison Rosch.
Half a minute later, Cooper Page tied the game at two. The teams were trading goals.
On the power play in the final minute of the second, Cooper Page gave the Nitros their first lead of the game, scoring on the power play.
“The [players] obviously knew that the first period was our worst period of the playoffs.” Stuart said. “They came out firing in the second. Once Russell scored that first goal, I thought we took over the game from there.”
A short 20 seconds into the third, Nicholas Ketola doubled the Nitro’s lead, 4-2.
At the midway point of the third, Jordan Rea scored for the Grizz, to get within one.
James Farmer restored the Nitro’s two goal lead with 2:25 left. The clock would not count down fast enough.
The Grizz pulled their goalie and did their best to score, but with 15 seconds left the Grizz would take a penalty, sealing their fate.
After winning the faceoff in the offensive zone, Mason Palaga skated the puck down to his defensive out to run out the clock, to let the celebrations begin.
“Me personally, I tried to watch the players reactions.” Stuart said. “That’s the enjoyment to see their reaction and celebration. We had the five 20-year olds on the ice in the final minute, to see their reaction and see them celebrate was the highlight of my season.”
“It was pretty special for us.” Palaga said, “It felt good as the time was winding down. We finally did it.”
Farmer was speechless talking about the final moments, but mustered, “Watching that clock go down, I will never forget that.”
And with that final tick, the Kimberley Dynamiters were the 2018 KIJHL Champions!
A sore and tired captain, Brett Roberts, smiled as he recalled what it was like to accept the trophy from KIJHL President Bill Ohlhausen, “It felt really good. It is something that you chase down your entire career. It was pretty special moment.”
For a couple of the players, this was not their first trip to the KIJHL Finals, but the first time winning.
It was Palaga’s second year in a row making the KIJHL Finals, he was a member of the Chase Heat last season and they lost to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“This meant a lot to me.” He said. “Losing last year was upsetting. Then coming here, it was my goal to win a championship. It feels good finally doing it.
Farmer was one of the players that played on the Nitros in the 2016 KIJHL Finals, “It was heart breaking my first year.” He said, “To get there again, I didn’t want that to happen again. We came through – it’s indescribable.”
The Nitros spent the night in Revelstoke before travelling back on Saturday.
When the teams’ bus arrived at the Kimberley Civic Centre about 50 fans, friends, and family greeted the Champs.
The Dynamiters head out on Tuesday to start their trek to Richmond to represent the KIJHL in the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
“It’s an added bonus, we never spoke about the Cyclone Taylor Cup all year.” Stuart said. “We were so focused on winning our own league, it is tough enough to do that.”
Their first game is Thursday at 4:30 pm MDT against the Delta Ice Hawks.