The Kootenay Conference Finals between the Kimberley Dynamiters and the Nelson Leafs has turned into a mini best-of-three series after both teams split the first four games in the best-of-seven series.
This was the most crucial game of the Nitros season, thus far. A win in Game Five, and they lead the series 3-2 with two cracks to finish the series. A loss, they head to Nelson with the daunting task of saving their season.
“It was important. It was crucial to get the win.” head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said about the importance of the game, “We don’t want to go into their barn down and facing elimination.”
The last time the two teams played in Kimberley the Leafs left with a 5-3 win.
“We said before the game, that the last time we were here we didn’t give the [fans] the show they deserved,” goaltender Cody Campbell said. “We said that tonight’s the night that they get everything they deserve, because they are really incredible. They are always there for us.”
It was apparent early, that the Dynamiters wanted to make good on their inter-club promise to the fans. A mere 36 seconds into the game, before everyone had settled into the game, the Nitros were up 1-0 with a goal credited to Brandt Bertoia.
The Nitro’s got into penalty trouble, and the Leafs outplayed the Nitros. But despite being outplayed and outshot, Matt Davies was the benefactor of a ricochet off the post, off the goalies pad, and into the net. A short-handed marker for the speedy forward.
After 20 minutes, the Dynamiters escaped with a 2-0 lead. The Leafs were understandably frustrated going scoreless on 12 shots.
The Dynamiters pushed it into overdrive in the second, firing an astounding 20 shots. They were able to score on one, as Davies scored on a two-on-one opportunity.
“Davies was our best player tonight.” Stuart said. “He has been one of our best players all playoffs. He seems to pick opportune times to elevate his game and really stand out… without him the score would have been a lot closer.”
Penalties dragged down the pace of the game, and the Leafs did a fantastic job on the penalty kill. An area that Stuart said his team will need to improve on.
By the second intermission the Nitros led 3-0.
Bryce McDonald added the icing on the cake early in the third period as he scored on the power play.
The Leafs pressed the panic button, but they were unable to finish plays and work the puck past Campbell.
“Cody was really solid.” Stuart said. “It’s a shutout. He was good, and he was solid. That’s the way he has been for a lot of the games in his career. That’s what we expect from Cody.”
Campbell was named the Home Star of the game as he made 31 saves for his second shutout of the series as he helped the team win 4-0.
“[Earning two shutouts] shows that we like to play against these guys. For me personally, it’s fun, big moments like this. I get a great chance to keep us moving in the playoffs and advancing. If I happen to be at a zero at the end of the game, it is just a bonus. that’s all.”
“I felt good since the start of playoffs, I keep making saves at the right time for us. The guys do a great job of keeping the guys out from infront of me, and cleaning up rebounds.”
Looking back at the game, Stuart did not like the teams opening period, despite a 2-0 lead.
“After the first period we were really tough to play against.” Stuart said. “The second period especially, I thought we controlled the period. The third we suffocated them to a bit, and kept them to the outside, and limited their opportunities to get into our zone.”
The series now quickly turns over to Nelson, with Game Six on Friday night. The Dynamiters still have a difficult task of winning on the road to finish the series.
“We have to get some food and liquid into us right now. Just get up, have a good bus trip into Nelson, and get a good meal into us. I know it is cliche, take it a shift at a time tomorrow night and not think about what a win could bring us.”
“We know they will be a very urgent and desperate team tomorrow. We have got to be more desperate than them.”
And as for the thought that the last time the Nitros shutout the Leafs, the Leafs went on to win two in a row – it’s not a concern for Stuart and the Dynamiters.
“It’s probably just coincidence. We are not really thinking about that. We are just going to try and go there tomorrow and win a hockey game. We just want to get that win in Nelson tomorrow.”
Game time is 7:00 p.m. PDT at the Nelson Community Complex.