Leafs face high-flying Dynamiters in Kootenay Conference Final
To be the best, you must beat the best.
That’s the challenge facing the Nelson Leafs as the Green and White open the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Kootenay Conference Final Friday in Kimberley.
The Nitros, who advanced into the best-of-seven series by stopping the surprising Columbia Valley Rockies in five games Monday, have represented the Eddie Mountain Division the past three seasons in the Conference Final.
Kimberley, which has tons of playoff experience having won the KIJHL Championship in 2015 and lost in the final in 2016 to 100 Mile House, also finished first overall in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League regular season standings, seven points ahead of the Leafs.
“The boys are excited to get started and have been really feeding off the town’s Leafs fever that has caught on,” said Leaf GM Lance Morey, adding the squad is “healthy for the most part and ready to go.”
Tale of the Tape
There wasn’t much to choose from between the teams during the regular season.
Although the Dynamiters won two of the three games to claim the season series, two games were decided by one goal — one of those two games in overtime.
The only win for Nelson, not really a surprise here, came with Josh Williams pitching a 3-0 shutout for the Leafs.
Leading Kimberley offensively is Brock Palmer, who not only rang up 58 points during the season to lead the Eddie Mountain Champ but is having a great playoff with 17 points.
Bryce Mcdonald is next with 13 points with James Farmer, leading the Nitros in goals with six, and Matt Davies each with 12.
For Nelson Jack Karran, Nicholas Wihak and defenceman Michael LeNoury each have 10 points.
The 6’3″, 185-pound Karran leads Nelson in goals with eight, including a four-goal outburst during Game three against Castlegar.
Mr. Overtime Ryan Piva, scoring a pair of winners against Castlegar, has nine points while Leaf Captain Sawyer Hunt, having only played nine games, is returning back to form with eight.
Campbell Versus Williams Series
Goals no doubt will be tough to come by as both teams trot out seasoned goalies between the pipes
Kimberley’s Cody Campbell, winner of eight of nine games this playoff season, is tops in the KIJHL with a skimpy 1.77 goal against average.
Despite appearing a little shaky at times in the post season, the Murdoch Division’s top backstopper has quietly won six of nine playoff games for the Leafs while posting an equally impressive 2.77 average.
The edge might go to the Leafs who have a solid backup in Caiden Kreitz to change it up for the Kimberley shooters.
Conference Winners to KIJHL Final
The Kootenay Conference winner has one more hurdle to climb before being crowed as KIJHL Champ.
The series victor advances to face Okanagan/Shuswap surviour in a best-of-seven series.
Osoyoos Coyotes travel to Revelstoke to meet the Grizzlies beginning Saturday.
Osoyoos eliminated Kelowna Chiefs in six games while the Grizzles outlasted 100 Mile House Wranglers in seven games.
The KIJHL champ represents the KIJHL in the four-team Cyclone Taylor Cup April 5-8 in Richmond.
ICE CHIPS: Game two of the series goes Saturday in Kimberley with Games three and four set for Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena. Advance tickets for Games three and four can be purchased at Baker Street Men’s Wear in Nelson at 571 Baker Street during business hours.