Friday marked the start of the Kootenay Conference Finals between the Nelson Leafs and the Kimberley Dynamiters. This is the first time these two teams have met in the playoffs since 1998 when both teams were a part of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.
Lady Luck was on the Nitros’ side early in the game, as not even four minutes into the opening period, James Farmer was the benefactor of an awkward bounce. The Nitros were up 1-0.
Two minutes later, Mason Palaga scored on the power play. Nicholas Ketola scored a beautiful short handed goal on his former team to make it 3-0, chasing arguably the KIJHL’s best regular season keeper Josh Williams from the net.
Minutes before the first period ended, Cooper Page scored the teams second power play goal. The Dynamiters had a surprisingly huge 4-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
“It was one of those games were everything went out way.” Head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said. “We were skating like how we wanted to, and we wanted to send a message in the first period, regardless of the score.”
The Dynamiters had to be careful, the Leafs had shown just three games ago that they could score eight goals in two periods.
At the start of the second, the Nitros continued their barrage. By the middle of the second period they had a 7-0 lead with goals from Matt Davies, Page, and Palaga.
The Leafs had their own power play chances late in the second period, but were unable to solve the Nitros’ penalty kill and goaltender Cody Campbell.
After 40 minutes the Nitros had commanding 7-0 lead.
The pace in the third period slowed considerably. The two teams were swapping penalties, and the Nitros were trying to pass time with puck control.
Cam Russell made it 8-0 scoring the teams fifth power play goal of the game.
Cody Campbell made 23 saves for his shutout this post-season. His second playoff shutout of his KIJHL career.
Page was named the Home Star of the Game scoring two goals and two assists, he would later be named as Hot in the KIJHL. These were his first points after going two games without a point, after going on a four-game point streak.
“It definitely felt good getting the monkey off the back. I’m a veteran player, and I hope can contribute to the team in the long run.”
Page was also really impressed with how the team played.
“It was a good effort from all the boys, definitely brought our ‘A’ game. It just shows what we can do as a team. We played a full sixty minutes, there is no way we can play a better game than that. We just need to keep it going for the rest of the series and the rest of the playoff run.”
Matt Davies earned four points as well with a goal and three assists. It was also James Rota’s first game back since February 23.
“[Rota] was really good. There were times you could tell that he missed a long time, then there were other times where it looked like he didn’t miss any time. He has fully healed.”
The Dynamiters know that they can’t expect to blowout the Leafs every game, and now need to readjust.
“We need to take it as a 0-0 mindset, we are not going to count on seeing the same Nelson team [that we saw tonight],” Stuart said, “but at the same time we are going to do the best to perform the same way we did tonight.
“We need to come to the rink tomorrow morning, treat it as a new day. When the puck drops tomorrow, tonight’s game means absolutely nothing. It is a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series. The series hasn’t really started, but it is a good first game for us.”
The Leafs and Dynamiters play Game Two tonight at Kimberley’s Civic Centre, game starts at 7:30 p.m.