For the first time since October 2015, the Kimberley Dynamiters and Revelstoke Grizzlies were on the ice together. But this time, the setting is vastly different, as both teams are competing for the KIJHL championship title in a best of seven series.
The two teams studied each other through videos, and this was their first original experience.
“They are a really good hockey team,” head coach and general manager Derek Stuart said, “They are very smart with pucks, they have a lot players that don’t make many mistakes, they are well coached.
“They are what we thought they would be based on their video. They have a very good goaltender. It is very easy to see why they made it to the finals.”
The Civic Centre was packed, 1,382 fans filled the stand to witness the first game of the KIJHL finals.
They were not disappointed.
Cam Russell opened the scoring on the power play half way through the first period.
After that goal, however, the Nitros slowed up.
“After the first, we were not very good. Our first period we were good. Especially in the first 8-9 minutes. I thought we could have had more than the one goal. After that, we slowed down.
“We weren’t skating at the pace we could skate at, and not moving pucks quick enough, and a lot of guys were standing still in their zone which enabled them to get pucks off our guys a lot.”
The Grizzlies leading goal scorer, Jordan Robertson, scored his ninth of the playoffs to tie the game at one in the second period.
For all intents and purposes, the third period was the start of overtime. Given how well both goaltenders were playing, goals were rare gems.
Nitro‘s Cody Campbell, and Grizz’s Giovanni Sambrielaz were fantastic and forced the game to overtime.
Heading into this overtime period, Revelstoke had a 4-3 record in overtime, while Kimberley was 2-1, most recently going to double overtime to eliminate the Nelson Leafs.
The first overtime period was a short ten minute period to see if the game would come to a conclusion. It didn’t, and a second overtime period was needed.
As the first overtime period waned, Russell crashed the net, and took Sambrielaz with him. As a result, he was given a five minute major and a game misconduct.
The Dynamiters then had the daunting task of killing a five minute power play.
The Grizz rang the outside of post twice to start the second overtime period, so the game continued.
After a physical sequence of plays, it looked like the refs had put their whistle away. Then the Grizz were penalized for head contact, and the Nitros got a two-minute power play with 16:16 left.
Brock Palmer made a beautiful pass over to Mason Palaga, and somehow Sambrielaz made a fantastic save. The Nitro’s looked to the rafters in frustration.
“After seeing Palmer give it back door to Mason, and him almost burying it on that short side, it was like: we have to get one here, there is no way we are letting this get away.” Bertoia recounted. “Luckily got some eyes, got my stick on it and slid five hole.”
“When I deflected it, I actually didn’t know that it went in.” Bertoia laughed. “The only reason I knew it went is that all the guys were hugging me. I was like: holy crap! It was surreal.”
Bertoia walked away as the games hero, but was quick to identify areas that the team needs to improve on.
“We need to play a full sixty. I think we are the better team. We have more physicality and more speed. We need to bury our chances, we are making this goalie look better than he is.”
While Bertoia was the goal scoring hero, Campbell was the Home Star of the Game making 31 saves for the overtime win.
“Campbell was outstanding in net for us.” Stuart said after the game.
Stuart was also impressed with Lucas Chilton, who had missed the past two weeks
“Chilton was excellent. For someone to miss nearly two weeks of action and come into the finals and play as well as he did, he was excellent.”
“We need to keep pushing the pace.” Stuart said. “When we were skating in the first ten minutes it didn’t seem like they could keep up.”to