Kootenay Conference playoff preview

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s (KIJHL) playoffs hit the ice Friday as team’s begin pursuit of the Teck Cup.


Here are snapshots of the matchups from the two divisions.


Eddie Mountain:

Kimberley Dynamiters (1) vs. Creston Valley Thunder Cats (4):


How they got here:

The Dynamiters cruised to the top of the KIJHL with 40 wins in 49 games. They closed out the regular season with seven wins in their final 10 and open the playoffs at home, where they won 21 of 24 games. The Thunder Cats (22-20-1-6) earned the final playoff spot with an eight-point edge on the Golden Rockets. They head into the postseason having won four of their final 10.


Players to watch: The Dynamiters are led by league MVP Brock Palmer, who hit the 50-goal mark in the final game. The Coaldale, Alta., product led the league with 98 points. The Dynamiters possess a balanced offence and have a dynamic duo between the pipes in Blake Pilon (17 wins) and Adam Anderson (22 wins). For the Thunder Cats, forward Logan Berggren led the offence with 45 points in 46 games. Forward Connor Scammell was second with 41 points in 49 games. Captain Andrew Clark, a defenceman, was third with 40 points in 49 games. The Thunder Cats worked on improving their goaltending with the signings of Justin Faiella and Jaden Little. The pair combined to win 11 games. 


Season series: The Dynamiters had three wins with a loss and two overtime wins. The Dynamiters outscored the Thunder Cats 26-15.


Columbia Valley Rockies (3) vs Fernie Ghostriders (2):

How they got here: The Ghostriders finished the season with 33 wins, putting them 12 points behind Kimberley in the standings. They closed out the regular season strong with eight wins in their final 10 games. The Rockies finished nearly 20 points behind the Ghostriders in the standings with 22 wins. They struggled into the playoffs with three wins in their final 10. 


Players to watch: The Ghostriders attack is led by three players (Dylan Defosse (59), Gavin Lawrie (55) and Johnny Elias (50). They had nearly four players finish in the 40-point range. In goal, Ethan Fitzgerald earned 17 wins and is supported by Brett Balas, who brings junior A experience. The Rockies are led by rookie defenceman Tristan Lambert, who had 37 points in 45 games. Their lone 20-goal scorer is Gavin Fleck with 22 goals in 46 games. Bretton Park led the Rockies with 13 wins.


Season series: The Ghostriders went 3-1-1-1 against the Rockies. However, the Ghostriders only outscored the Rockies 27-24.  Special teams could prove a factor as the Ghostriders have the league’s fourth-best power-play, executing at just under 20 per cent, while the Rockies own the fifth-best penalty-kill at 85.5 per cent. 


Neil Murdoch Division

Beaver Valley Nitehawks (1) vs. Castlegar Rebels (4)


How They Got Here: The Nitehawks (30-11-3-0-5) edged Nelson by two points to clinch the division, while the Rebels (14-29-0-0-6) secured their playoff spot by three points over Grand Forks. The Nitehawks closed out the regular season with six wins in their last 10 games, while the Rebels picked up three.


Players to Watch: Bradley Ross, the most valuable player in the Neil Murdoch Division, finishing second in KIJHL scoring with 37 goals and 77 points. He nearly doubled his next highest scoring teammate (Simon Nemethy, 39 points) and exploded for 17 points during a nine-game scoring streak to close out the season. Meanwhile, four of the Rebels’ top five scorers were rookies, but it was second-year forward Josh Wiens who led the team in points with 39. The Oak Lake, Manitoba product finished the regular season strong with 12 points in his last nine games. Griffen Ryden, a pick up from the Revelstoke Grizzlies, scored 16 goals and 26 points in 28 games.


Season Series: The Nitehawks won five (one in overtime) of six regular season meetings between the teams. They held the Castlegar offence in check to the tune of 11 goals. The Rebels’ lone victory came in Castlegar on January 17th when Ethan Lawczynski made 39 saves and Ryden scored twice in a 4-2 win.


Nelson Leafs (2) vs. Spokane Braves (3)


How they got here: After a slow start to the season, the Leafs (30-13-0-0-6) found themselves atop of the division, until the Nitehawks turned things up. The Leafs closed out the season red-hot, winning nine of their final 10 games. The Braves (20-23-3-0-4) secured the third spot with a young team.


Players to watch: The Leafs are led by Reid Wilson, who finished with 75 points on the season, good for third overall in league scoring. Teammate Shawn Campbell scored at nearly a goal-a-game clip with 31 in 39 games to go with 50 points. The Braves were led offensively by Derek Humphreys (25 goals, 47 points in 49 games) and Alex Enegren (18 goals, 40 points in 49 games).


Season series: The teams split the series in six games. The Leafs outscored the Braves 18-16. The Leafs get an edge with their power-play – third-best executing at 20 per cent, while the Braves were last at 11.55 per cent.