These two evenly-matched clubs hit the Kimberley ice last Friday and Saturday, to kickoff the 2022-23 KIJHL post-season playdowns. The Rockets were looking to come away with at least a split in games, and take away home-ice advantage from the Nitros.
In the seven regular season meetings between these teams this year (with Golden winning four times), no less than five games have been decided by a single goal. The greatest margin of victory was a Rockets’ 3-0 shutout win last November at the Plywood Palace.
And, with what has become the trend all season, yet another pair of close and exciting contests quickly unfolded.
Friday, Feb.17th, 2023 Kimberley 4 Rockets 2
The local stars came out flying in the first period, and wasted little time taking the early lead. At 3:57, Golden’s smooth playmaker Levi Lamotte drew the puck back from the face-off deep in the Kimberley end. Wiry Hayden Barr slipped a quick pass back to rugged Alexander Johnson at the point, whose hard, low drive was masterfully deflected in front by cagey forward Nick Morin to the back of the net.
In the early minutes of the second period, Golden’s penalty-kill units were strong holding-off the Dynamiter powerplay. However, just :16 seconds later, Kimberley found the equalizer from Tyler Lindal. Three minutes afterwards, the Golden powerplay responded with a Kade Cochlan marker, on a fine setup from Jordan Lario and Levi Lamotte.
Before the period ended, the Nitros managed to strike in succession, with goals from Jayden Kostiuk and Conner Furukawa to take a 3-2 lead.
That lead held through the third period until an empty-net goal with three seconds remaining sealed a 4-2 win for the Dynamiters.
Kimberley outshot Golden 41-27.
Saturday, Feb.18th, 2023 Rockets 3 Kimberley 2
The Goldenites regrouped quickly from the opening game edging, and were key on achieving the “split”, to send the series back to KIckingHorse Country with home-ice advantage.
But Kimberley was to take the lead with the only marker of the first period (on the powerplay), off the stick of Jayden Kostiuk midway through the frame. The margin was extended to 2-0 early in the middle stanza when ex-Creston TCat Campbell Mclean found the range. Golden answered later, at 11:01, when two of the Rocket’s hardest-working forwards, Austin Angus and Brydon Foster combined to cut the lead in half at 2-1. That lead held as both teams tightened their defence over the remainder of the period.
At the 9:27 mark of the third period the Nitros had an opportunity to extend the lead further, when a penalty-shot was awarded to Tristan Weill. He was up against Rockets’ stalwart netminder Levi Hall, who once again (as he has done countless times this season), stood tall and stymied the Nitro forward on the scoring attempt. And, (as he has done countless times this season), Hall’s heroics sparked his club into action.
With just over five minutes remaining in regulation time, Golden’s fiery Kylow Monkman finished off a great play from Brydon Foster and Liam Furlong to deadlock the score at 2-2.
The Rockets needed just over two minutes of overtime to seal the game and draw the series even. At 2:38, Kade Cochlan tossed the puck towards the Kimberley net, where Jordan Lario made a quick shot on goal. Nitro goalie Matt Fleet made the initial save, but a loose rebound bounced to the left side, where Dominic Fiorentino made no mistake tucking the puck behind Fleet.
Final score was 3-2. Rockets outshot Kimberley 35-28.
Of particular note in the Saturday win for the Rockets. The nearly 900 fans in the stands in Kimberley (and those watching on HockeyTV) were not only treated to an exciting contest, they were witness to perhaps the “Goaltender Save Of The Year” in the KIJHL . With the Dynamiters swarming the Golden net, Rockets’ Levi Hall utilized his lightning-quick reflexes and absolutely robbed the Nitro forward of a goal, with an incredible display of lateral quickness. Haven’t seen such terrific goaltending in a long while. Kind of reminds you of the great Glenn Hall……..
(You can view the Levi Hall save, along with the Dominic Fiorentino’s winning goal on the Rockets’ Facebook site.)
The series now shifts to the Plywood Palace in Golden, for Games 3 & 4, Tuesday Feb.21st and Wednesday Feb.22nd.