It didn’t take long for the Kimberley Dynamiters and Fernie Ghostriders to renew a longstanding, fierce playoff rivalry.
In Game 1 of the Eddie Mountain Division semifinal, it was the Kimberley Dynamiters coming out on top, knocking around the Fernie Ghostriders — both in the corners and on the scoreboard — en route to a 6-0 victory at the Kimberley Civic Centre Tuesday evening.
“We worked pretty hard the last couple days trying to establish roles that every player was going to fulfill and make sure we celebrate the role, sometimes as simple as a fourth-line cycle of the puck down low and keeping the puck in their end and tiring out a top ‘D’ pair,” said Jerry Bancks, head coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, following Tuesday’s Game 1 win. “I thought we did a really good job of playing our roles.”
While the home team fulfilled its roles and brought its work boots to the rink, the same could not be said for the visiting Ghostriders, who were outshot 40-23 by the end of the night.
“The first period was good and then in the second period we got away from what we do well, which is finishing checks and creating stuff,” said Craig Mohr, head coach and general manager of the Fernie Ghostriders. “[The Dynamiters] did it. You’ve got to credit that team. They came out in the second and third period and they took it to us. Let’s not sugarcoat it. Our guys are strong enough that they know we got thumped in those last two periods.
“The nice thing about a playoff series is it’s one game.”
Hometown boy Jared Marchi got Game 1 headed in the right direction for the Dynamiters, redirecting a Keenan Haase point shot on the power play to give Kimberley a 1-0 lead 12:29 into the first period.
“It’s super important in Game 1 to come out and set a good physical tone and let them know we’re not going to be pushed around at all,” Marchi said Tuesday. “We’re really going to show them what the series is going to be all about.
“You know every shift you step on the ice you’re going to war against the guy that comes out against you on the faceoff. You’ve got to be mentally focused, prepared and willing to do anything to outwork that guy.”
By the end of the night, Marchi helped lead the way, registering two goals and an assist — including the game-winning marker — while goaltender Tyson Brouwer, who was named Eddie Mountain Division Goaltender of the Year prior to the game, pitched a 23-save shutout for the victory between the pipes .
“With the series shifting to Fernie [for Game 2], it’s important that we get the wins at home,” Brouwer said Tuesday. “It was good to take care of the win here at home first and now we’ll go to work [Wednesday].”
Outside of Marchi’s tally, the opening 20 minutes were calm, cool, collected and tightly contested.
When the second period rolled around, the ice tilted heavily in favour of the home team and there was little balance from there on.
Eric Buckley parked himself on the doorstep of Jeff Orser’s crease, banging a rebound past the Ghostriders goaltender only 3:22 into the middle period to double the advantage for the Dynamiters.
Then the bodies started flying.
First, Fernie forward Nolan Lagace took a run at Jordan Busch in Kimberley territory, flattening the Edmonton native into the corner boards. As Lagace popped up, in stormed Nitros captain Jason Richter to level the native of Fort St. John and even the exchange.
Unfortunately for the Ghostriders, the exchange wasn’t quite as even on the score sheet as Lagace was handed a two-minute minor and game misconduct for checking from behind, while Richter received a two-minute minor for charging.
After Keagan Kingwell was tagged with a hooking minor, Korbyn Chabot redirected a Trey Doell point shot to give the Dynamiters a commanding 3-0 advantage with 7:33 remaining in the second.
Less than a minute later, Richter delivered the knockout punch, chipping a rebound past Orser for a 4-0 Kimberley lead.
Mohr immediately called timeout and sent Brandon Butler on in relief of Orser between the pipes.
“The goalies did their jobs tonight,” Mohr said. “There could have been a few more [goals] without them. There’s no issue there. I thought they both did a very good job tonight.
“Pulling Jeff [Orser] when we did was more he’s getting shelled back there, we’re not as coaches going to let him hang out to dry.
“We’re going to look at it and see where we go forward with the goaltending situation. But it’s a nice one we have because they’re both playing well right now.”
Orser had made 18 saves on 22 shots when he was removed from the game, including a couple showstoppers in the first period, stoning Sawyer Hunt and Buckley to keep his team within one.
Butler came on and was solid early as well, particularly to start the third period as the Dynamiters kept the Ghostriders on their heels.
Eventually, the slippery Buckley found some open ice in the slot, taking a beautiful pass from Devon Langelaar and sending it past Butler for a 5-0 Kimberley lead.
Marchi rounded out the scoring by sending an absolute howitzer from the point past Butler on the man advantage late in the proceedings.
Butler, the 5-foot-8 native of Calgary, had made 16 saves on 18 shots when the final buzzer sounded.
At the other end of the rink, Brouwer’s night was relatively quiet, though he showed in the second period why he was named the division’s goaltender of the year.
With Ghostriders forward Zach Befus bearing down, Brouwer stood tall and flashed the leather to make a critical glove save, preserving his team’s 2-0 lead.
The rough-and-tumble game saw plenty of special teams action, with the Dynamiters converting on 3-of-3 power-play chances. At the other end, the Ghostriders came up empty on seven power-play opportunities.
There’s no breathing room for either team, as the Dynamiters and Ghostriders will get right back to it Wednesday evening with Game 2 slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Fernie Memorial Arena.
“For us, it’s a smaller ice surface [in Fernie]. We’ve got to get pucks in deep on them,” Mohr said looking ahead to Game 2. “We’ve got to pin them down with our forecheck. If you don’t, with that offensive group they have, if you just let them break out and hit your blueline clean with speed, they’re dangerous. They’re good hockey players. The best way to combat that is to make them play in their own zone.
“The nice thing about playoffs is tomorrow’s a new day. We’ve got to look at it that way. We can’t look at yesterday. We’ve got to look ahead… Tomorrow is the big test. We’re going back to our house. We’ve got to win in our house.”
For Bancks and the Dynamiters, the goal is to maintain momentum heading into Game 2 and not allow Mohr’s Ghostriders any opportunity to get life at home.
“Nothing is going to change,” Bancks said. “Things happen a little quicker in their rink. You have to move the puck quicker on the power play. It’s going to be more physical in tighter space. You just have to take care of business. I’m looking forward to it.”
Following Wednesday’s Game 2 in Fernie, the series shifts back to the Kimberley Civic Centre Friday night (7 p.m.) for Game 3.
Notes: KIJHL Eddie Mountain Division vice-president Phil Iddon was on hand prior to Game 1, presenting Richter and president Chad Koran with a league banner to commemorate the Dynamiters’ Eddie Mountain Division title and KIJHL regular-season crown… Iddon also presented Brouwer with his award as the division’s goaltender of the year, while Jordan Busch was also named Eddie Mountain Division Defenceman of the Year… There were 692 in attendance at the Kimberley Civic Centre Tuesday evening…