With the Creston Valley Thunder Cats already waiting in the shadows, the Kimberley Dynamiters knew they needed to take care of business in Game 5 of the Eddie Mountain Division semifinal with the Fernie Ghostriders.
Monday night at the Kimberley Civic Centre, the Dynamiters did just that, scoring a 4-2 victory in Game 5 to clinch the best-of-seven series 4-1.
“They played a very physical series and they battled us hard the whole way,” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, Monday night. “It’s nice to have it done and we’re looking forward to Creston now.”
James Farmer scored the series-clinching goal during the second period of play and goaltender Tyson Brouwer turned aside 27 shots as the Dynamiters collected a Game 5 triumph in front of 802 fans.
“It’s nice for someone like that, a quality kid, to score a big goal tonight,” Bancks said of Farmer. “He earned his minutes and it’s nice to see growth.”
Sawyer Hunt — oft the unsung hero — was a catalyst, registering three assists to help boost his club’s offense in the early stages and was a thorn in the side of the Ghostriders from start to finish.
With his performance in Game 5, Hunt has six assists to his credit and has already doubled his output (three points in 16 games) from the Nitros 2014-15 KIJHL championship run.
“I think in the last three games, which are three critical games, Sawyer might have been our best forward,” Bancks said. “Overall, he was probably our best forward in the series, which is great for Sawyer.
“I know he had a great shot at making Junior A this year and I told him before the series, this is when people come to see you play. He picked up his game and definitely provided what we needed. He had a great series.”
Keenan Haase and Jordan Busch returned to the lineup Monday night and both found the spotlight, for differing reasons, early on.
Haase opened the scoring in the first period, hammering a hot shot from the slot past Butler for a 1-0 Dynamiters lead 7:06 into the night.
Moments later, Ghostriders forward Zach Befus took a run at Busch, levelling the veteran from behind in front of the Fernie bench. Busch was slow to his feet and made his way to the dressing room, but eventually returned to action. For Befus, his night came to an end early as he was handed a two-minute minor and game misconduct for checking from behind.
On the ensuing man advantage, Tanner Wit threaded a tough angle shot from below the goal line up and and over the shoulder of Butler to give the hosts a 2-0 edge.
“It seemed to me I was all by myself,” Wit said Monday, recounting his first-period goal. “I heard Jerry [Bancks] yelling from the bench — ‘Walk it! Walk it!’ So I just took a step out, saw a tiny hole and decided to take the odds. They worked out.
“We were determined all through this series. We have a great group and it’s not just talent, it’s all hard work. Everyone here knows we’ve got to put in the work to get out.”
Only 18 seconds elapsed before the Ghostriders scored a much-needed quick response, as Nolan Lagace tapped home a puck at the side of the net to get Fernie on the board and make it 2-1.
The Ghostriders appeared to have tied the game right at the buzzer heading into the first intermission. Coleton Dawson looked to get the tying goal as the referee emphatically pointed for a good goal. After a lengthy discussion at centre ice, the call on the ice was overturned and the Dynamiters carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
In the early stages of the second period, Aidan Wilson did his best to gather some energy for the visitors. Bursting across the Nitros blue line, Wilson got past at defender and in alone on Brouwer who managed to slide cross crease for a critical blocker save, preserving the 2-1 edge.
Not two minutes later, Franco Colapaolo carried into Fernie territory, dishing a beautiful 2-on-1 pass to rookie Farmer, who made no mistake in beating Butler for the first KIJHL playoff goal of his career and a 3-1 lead.
As the second period wound down and with the hosts once again on the power play, Justin Meier rang a heavy shot off the iron and in behind Butler for a commanding 4-1 advantage after 40 minutes of play.
After failing to cash in early in the second period, Wilson made good on his next glorious opportunity early in the third period.
With Brouwer wandering from the crease, the puck took a funny bounce past the Kimberley netminder and landed right on the stick of the Fernie forward who needed nothing more than to simply deposit it into the gaping cage.
Wilson’s goal made it 4-2 and suddenly there was a bit of a tension in the building.
The Ghostriders managed to get Butler to the bench for an extra attacker with the better part of three minutes remaining, but nothing came of it as the hosts locked down the defensive zone to close out the series and dispatch Fernie for the second consecutive season.
Butler, starting in place of the injured Jeff Orser, made 26 saves.
The Dynamiters will take the rest of the week to heal some bumps and bruises before preparing for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats and the Eddie Mountain Division final, which is tentatively scheduled to get underway Saturday (7 p.m.) at the Kimberley Civic Centre.