For the fifth year in a row, arguably the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s greatest rivalry, is happening. The Kimberley Dynamiters and Fernie Ghostriders will battle eachother in a best of seven series to advance to the Eddie Mountain Division Finals.
The Dynamiters have been winners of the past four match ups, needing five or six games to eliminate the Ghostriders. The ‘Riders last won a series against the Dynamiters in 2012, needing seven games.
The Nitros have also won all eight games this season against the Ghostriders, outscoring the ‘Riders 39-22.
But if there is one stat that provides the ‘Riders with hope, it is that at the Kimberley Civic Centre they have only lost by one goal in each game, including one overtime game.
Ghostriders head coach and general manager Craig Mohr, chuckled and said, “it’s bizarre! We have played really well in Kimbo this year. It is what it is. We can feel good going into the first two games because we have played well there.”
Whereas, Nitro’s head coach and general manager Derek Stuart responded with “really?” as he was not aware of and couldn’t explain the stat, but added,
“Playoffs are a different season, but at the same time it’s the same two teams with the same players. Based on the last eight times we have played Fernie, our team is extremely confident heading into the series.”
The Ghostriders have truly only played five home games this season
Road Warriors: Even
Another area of closeness between the two teams is special teams. When all 47 games are considered, the Nitro’s power play is 22.0% and the ‘Riders 17.51%. There is even greater difference in the penalty kill, with the ‘Riders last at 73.68% and the Nitros fourth with 87.75%. However, in just the eight games, the special teams haven’t been a huge differentiating factor with the Nitro’s penalty kill at 78.05% and the ‘Riders at 72.22%.
Special Teams: Even
Where the Dynamiters get their edge is in shots. Goaltender Broc Merkl for the ‘Riders has been outstanding, but he has faced 331 shots in 360 minutes, nearly a shot per minute. With that edge, the Nitros have been able to wear down their opponent. The Dynamiters need to keep that pace.
For Kimberley, they have the winningest goalie in the KIJHL this season, Cody Campbell, posting 25 wins, protecting the net. Not to mention a very experienced defensive core.
Goaltending and Defense: Kimberley
Up front the Ghostriders have relied heavily on Mitch Titus to provide offense. Their captain is seventh in league scoring with 64 points. When healthy Titus, Brendan Nemes, and Keelan Saworski form a deadly trio.
For the Dynamiters, they have relied on depth to down the ‘Riders with seven different players being named the star of the game over the eight games. It’s also youth that leads the offensive punch. Brock Palmer and Cam Russell lead the way while Matt Davies, James Farmer and Brandt Bertoia round out the teams top five scoring.
Farmer has had statistical success against the ‘Riders posting five goals and 13 points. Bertoia has been clutch with three power play goals, a short handed goal, and two game winners.
For Ghostriders Mohr, he is excited for another matchup between these two teams.
“It will be fun. I think it is going to be a hard nosed, hard fought, gritty series. When you put these two teams against each other, the rivalry kicks in, and it makes for exciting, fun and tough, hockey.”
As for Stuart, this is what he said to expect in the series, “We need to have a good start on Friday night in the first period. We definitely need to send them a message that it is the playoffs now. If they thought the regular season was tough, the playoffs are going to be a whole new ball game.”
“We want to make it difficult for them to get back in the game after the first period. It is a short term goal of ours to make sure the first period is excellent.”
Prediction: Kimberley wins in five
The series starts Friday at the Kimberley Civic Centre with the puck drop at 7:30 p.m.
Match Sticks: Here is the recent history of the Kimberley vs Fernie series:
2017 first round, Nitros in 6
2016 first round, Nitros in 5
2015 second round, Nitros in 6
2014 first round, Nitros in 5
2013 – did not play eachother
2012 second round, Fernie in 7
2011 first round, Fernie in 4