The top-seeded Kimberley Dynamiters and fourth-seeded Creston Valley Thunder Cats open the KIJHL playoffs on Friday in one of two first-round matchups in the Eddie Mountain Division.
The Kimberley Dynamiters had another dominant season, winning 40 of their 49 games and claiming the President Cup as the top KIJHL team for the second time in the last three seasons.
Made up of 18 veterans and just five rookies, the Dynamiters are poised to make another run for the KIJHL Championship, now entitled the Teck Cup. Kimberley has reached the KIJHL Championship four times in the last five years, winning in 2015 and 2018, and meeting the Revelstoke Grizzlies in the final the last two seasons.
Derek Stuart, Head Coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters believes the amount of returning players contributed to their regular season success.
“That was a huge factor, just the experience and maturity of these guys and not getting too nervous or panicking ever, they’re a very experienced hockey team.”
Nick Redding, Head Coach of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats is well aware of Kimberley’s veteran players, believing their first-round matchup will be a difficult series.
“They’re very experienced, very skilled, very good and we can’t really take any time off. You have to be in every second of every game and really try and force them into things that are uncomfortable for them,” Redding told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “It will be a tough test for our guys for sure but I think we’re going to be ready and we’re excited to start.”
The Thunder Cats limped into the KIJHL playoffs as the fourth and final seed in the Eddie Mountain Division, despite being five games under .500 on the year. Creston is an extremely young team with 13 rookies and nine veterans.
Redding said they will have to get everybody involved as quickly as they can in the series and hopefully being able to establish their style of play right out of the gate.
“Kimberley’s a tough place to play, it’s a big ice sheet and they’re very good on it so for us its just getting acclimated to that ice sheet and being able to put our systems and our game to use as quickly as we can.”
The Dynamiters are also looking to establish themselves early, believing they can set the pace for the entire series in Game 1.
“We need to make sure our feet are moving and we’re using our speed in terms of skating and in terms of moving pucks,” Stuart told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “We got to definitely establish our speed and set the tone for the game and hopefully set the tone for the series. We really want to get that first win at home, I think that will kickstart us and hopefully propel us into a short series.”
A major factor in the series will be the KIJHL’s leading scorer, Brock Palmer. The Kimberley Dynamiters forward finished the season with 98 points (50 G, 48 A) in 49 games, which was 22 points more than the second-leading scorer in the KIJHL.
“He had a career year,” said Stuart. “There’s not many seasons by anyone that match that, especially scoring 50 goals in less than 50 games so that’s something that I think was fun to watch for everyone and he’s a very important part of our hockey team.”
Redding said their key to the series is trying to limit Kimberley’s high-powered offense and be aware of when Palmer and others are in the game.
“He’s a guy that you always have to know when he’s on the ice and they have a few different forwards and players overall that you just have to know when they’re on the ice and you really have to play sound defensively to try to slow them down. For us, that will probably be one of the biggest challenges of the whole series.”
With the regular season in the rearview mirror, the Dynamiters and Thunder Cats will open the playoffs at the Kimberley Civic Centre on Friday at 7:00 pm MST, while the other Division Semifinal has the Fernie Ghostriders and the Columbia Valley Rockies battle at the Fernie Memorial Arena at 7:00 pm MST.
Here’s the breakdown for each team entering Game 1 of their best-of-seven Division Semifinal:
|(#1) Kimberley Dynamiters||(#4) Creston Valley Thunder Cats|
|Record||40-6-0-3 (83 points)||22-20-1-6 (51 points)|
|Last 10 Games||7-2-0-1 (W4)||4-5-1-0 (W1)|
|Top Scorers||Brock Palmer (50G, 58A, 98P)||Logan Berggren (17G, 28A, 45P)|
|Cam Russell (22G, 34A, 56P)||Connor Scammell (15G, 26A, 41P)|
|Jett Saharchuk (14G, 31A, 45P)||Andrew Clark (5G, 35A, 40P)|
|Top Goalie||Blake Pilon (2.08 GAA, .921 SV%)||Riley O’Laney (3.02 GAA, .902 SV%)|
|Goal Differential||(+) 87||(-) 25|
Here’s the schedule for the Division Semifinal series which opens Friday at the Kimberley Civic Centre at 7:00 pm MST.
|Game 1||Fri. February 28th||Dynamiters vs Thunder Cats||Kimberley Civic Centre||7:00pm|
|Game 2||Sat. February 29th||Dynamiters vs Thunder Cats||Kimberley Civic Centre||7:00pm|
|Game 3||Mon. March 2nd||Thunder Cats vs Dynamiters||Johnny Bucyk Arena||7:30pm|
|Game 4||Tues. March 3rd||Thunder Cats vs Dynamiters||Johnny Bucyk Arena||7:30pm|
|Game 5||Thur. March 5th||Dynamiters vs Thunder Cats||Kimberley Civic Centre||7:00pm|
|Game 6||Fri. March 6th||Thunder Cats vs Dynamiters||Johnny Bucyk Arena||7:30pm|
|Game 7||Sun., March 8th||Dynamiters vs Thunder Cats||Kimberley Civic Centre||7:00pm|