Friday marks the start of a new season in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League as the Kimberley Dynamiters look to continue their tradition of success in the Eddie Mountain Division.
Making the KIJHL Championship four of the last five years and winning league titles in 2018 and 2015, the Dynamiters are bringing back a strong contingent of players. Kimberley has 15 total veterans on their active roster, 11 of which are returning from last season, and five of which were on the Dynamiters 2018 Championship team two years ago.
“We’re expecting a lot of leadership from those five or six guys, but especially the 20-year-olds, Brock Palmer and Brady Daniels, Cam Russell and Lucas Chilton,” Derek Stuart told MyEastKootenayNow.com, Head Coach of General Manager of the Dynamiters. “Of course Adam Andersen is entering his third year and Harrison Risdon is entering his fourth year, so there’s a handful right there that we’re expecting a lot of leadership from.”
Brock Palmer led the Dynamiters with 81 points (27G, 54A) in 47 games and was third in league scoring by the end of last year while Cam Russell also had a strong season with 46 points (15G, 31A) in just 32 games.
Poised to make another run, Kimberley is looking to reach their third consecutive KIJHL Championship in as many years.
Despite the hype, the Dynamiters are keeping it cool. Stuart said him and his coaching staff are simply focused on September as they are still carrying 25 players on their active roster heading into the regular season.
“We’ve got to give everyone opportunities to play and show us what they have. Typically, in the last three years we’ve pretty much ran our lines up until November so everyone’s going to get an opportunity to get a lot of ice time, everyone’s going to get an opportunity on the power play and the penalty kill and things will usually play themselves out by November,” said Stuart. “I think by then we’ll start coaching more so to win, right now it’s about developing the players and getting everyone on the same page.”
While most teams in the Eddie Mountain Division had several exhibition games, the Dynamiters only had one exhibition weekend playing back-to-back against the Golden Rockets. In comparison, the Columbia Valley Rockies played three games, Fernie played four, Creston had five, while Golden had a division-high seven preseason games.
“We only chose two because we have so many veterans back this year and there’s a handful of rookies that we know what we’re getting so I felt that exhibition games were somewhat pointless for those players, we already know what we have so practices were much more valuable,” explained Stuart. “I thought the games were good, the guys worked hard, especially for not practicing any systems or power play or anything and just simply throwing out whoever’s up next out of the gate, they worked hard and competed.”
Kimberley cruised to 8-1 and 4-1 wins over Golden in the preseason.
Now entering a new 2019/2020 KIJHL season, the Dynamiters go head-to-head with one of their long-standing rivals from the Neil Murdoch Division, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“It was on purpose that we did schedule BV for our first game,” Stuart told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “Their our biggest rival and we’ve met them in the Conference Final four of the last five years, so it’s not by accident we’re playing our number one rival in the first home opener.”
When asked how they intend to gameplan against the Nitehawks this early on the season, Stuart said they just have to worry about themselves.
“We’re just going to go play our game, especially this time of year. We don’t know other teams or their systems or tendencies so we’re going to focus 100% on what we need to do right now and then kind of go from there.”
The Kimberley Dynamiters and Beaver Valley Nitehawks bring in the new KIJHL season at 7:00 pm on Friday at the Kimberley Civic Centre, while the Dynamiters will return to the Civic Centre on Saturday to host the Osoyoos Coyotes.
Around the rest of the KIJHL on Friday, the Columbia Valley Rockies entertain Osoyoos at 7:30 pm on Friday at Invermere’s Eddie Mountain Arena, while the Fernie Ghostriders are on the road against the Nelson Leafs.
Elsewhere, the Golden Rockets are travelling as they visit the Kamloops Storm on Friday and the 100 Mile House Wranglers on Saturday, while the Creston Valley Thunder Cats are on the road against the Spokane Braves before returning to Johnny Bucky Arena on Saturday for their home opener at 7:30 pm against the Nelson Leafs.