The KIJHL playoffs are two games into its third round as the Kimberley Dynamiters, Nelson Leafs, Revelstoke Grizzlies and Osoyoos Coyotes battle for their respective Kootenay and Okanagan Conference titles to punch their ticket to the Teck Cup Championship.
This week’s KIJHL Notebook connected with a player from each team touching on the players’ own performance and the team.
Doug Birks Division
Brandon Weare of the Revelstoke Grizzlies said the team played really well defensively in their six-game series win over the Kamloops Storm.
“We were playing to our system that we have been playing all year,” he said. “I think I have been playing very well. I’ve just been taking it one save at a time, not focusing on anything but the next save. They have been playing great in front of me.”
Weare, named the Top Goalie for the Instat KIJHL 3 Stars of the Week, has nine wins in 11 playoff games, which leads all KIJHL goalies. He has a 1.16 GAA and a .953 SP.
What Weare has liked about his play, giving the Grizzlies a chance to win is communication. He is communicating well with his defenceman, knowing where they are on the ice at all times. This is Weare’s first time playing in the playoffs as he came over to the Grizzlies in a trade from the Golden Rockets following the 2019-20 season.
“It’s been awesome. Lots of fun,” he said of this playoff run. “I’ve been enjoying everything about it. Going on the road with the boys, winning games, playing our hardest. Playing in front of our awesome fans – there is nothing better.”
Weare likes that everyone is buying in and that everyone is playing their hardest to win for each other.
“The confidence is really high, we know we have a great group of guys,” said Weare, who has two wins with a .945 SP and a 1.50 GAA against Osoyoos in two games. “We’re like a family in the room. We know what we have to do and we think we can do it.”
Bill Ohlhausen Division
Ethan McKinley of the Osoyoos Coyotes said their team has been performing pretty good in the playoffs. The one thing he feels they need to focus on, especially going into the Revelstoke series, is playing a full 60 minutes and taking it to them all the time.
“We’ve also got to keep things simple and work on our defensive zone and have some structure there,” said McKinley, who last season played for the North Edmonton Red Wings in the CapJHL, collecting three assists in four games.
When it comes to his own play, McKinley feels he has been performing pretty well.
“I’ve found the back of the net a decent amount in the playoffs,” said the six-foot, 170-pound forward, who has seven goals in 13 games after putting up 14 in 35 regular season games. “I think that is helping our team and I got to keep doing that. Keep shooting the puck and being an offensive threat.”
McKinley credited his performance from playing on a line with Jack Henderson and Alex Ochitwa, two very good players, and said Henderson in the regular season was scoring a lot. At the start of these playoffs, things changed as games picked up and roles adjusted.
“Everyone has to buy in and find their own role and I guess mine at the start was to be that goal scorer and be the one to shoot the puck,” he said. “I’d say that helps.”
The difference in play from the regular season to playoffs he sees is all over the ice.
“You don’t have that extra half second with the puck anymore, everyone is more physical, and I think just the want and the will and the hard work from everyone makes the play a lot better.”
In two games against Revelstoke, McKinley has a goal.
Eddie Mountain Division
Christian Mealey of the Kimberley Dynamiters said he feels he has been performing well.
“I think our team has been bringing everything together and keeps rolling,” he said. “That allows for players like me to do what they are here to do. Our team is doing really well defensively and the goalies are doing their job and it makes it easy for someone who is supposed to get points, get points.”
Mealey has seen a more physical element in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Columbia Valley did play a physical game.
“Just the speed of play picked up a bit more,” said Mealey, who started this season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, playing four games with the Olds Grizzlys. “I’d say moving the puck faster, and knowing where your teammates are before you get the puck so that you can move it to them.”
After putting up 21 goals in 36 regular season games, Mealey has continued to produce in the playoffs with 10 goals and eight assists in 12 games. Mealey takes his role as a guy to be counted on to produce seriously.
In Game 5 against Columbia Valley, Mealey recorded his first career playoff hat-trick.
“Yeah, that’s pretty sweet,” he said. “It’s too bad we couldn’t pull off the win though, but that felt pretty good.”
In two games against Nelson, Mealey has a goal and an assist.
Nelson Leafs goalie Tenzin Mint said he has been playing pretty well for the team entering their series against the Kimberley Dynamiters. The team has been doing well keeping shots to the outside, making it easier for him.
Mint feels he’s done a good job of directing pucks to the corners and “smothering everything in front.”
“That has really helped us with our wins, and just being able to read pucks from the point,” he said. “My confidence is pretty good right now. After beating BV, our rivals, and then Castlegar coming so close, and coming back and winning that, the confidence is pretty good right now.”
Mint said the group feels good about their play when they play good. They have also had some games in which they may have been overconfident and not completely ready for. The 6-foot, 165-pound goalie has enjoyed the intensity of the playoff run and how every game can be a different one.
“Even if you are up 3-1 in a series, it’s not over until it is over,” he said, adding the difference of playoffs to regular season games is the intensity in everyone’s play. “Usually you get up a couple of goals, you can see teams start to quit a bit, but in the playoffs, that’s not there, there is lots more life and intensity on the ice.”
In two games against the Dynamiters, Mint is winless with an .878 SP and a 3.37 GAA.