The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) playoffs are halfway done and Yellowknife’s Austin Daniels is still in with a shout.
Daniels and his Kimberley Dynamiters are in the KIJHL Teck Cup semifinals after eliminating the Columbia Valley Rockies in Game 6 of their second-round series on the road this past Friday. A 6-2 win put the Dynamiters into round three where they’re taking on the Nelson Maple Leafs for a spot in the final.
The Dynamiters finished first overall in their conference, giving them home ice advantage all the way through to the final. They kicked things off against the Golden Rockets in round one and swept them aside in four games, winning Game 4 on Feb. 26 by a score of 7-2.
Daniels said Kimberley was in control for the entire series.
“They put up a good fight and pushed in one game (Game 3) but we did what we had to do,” he said.
It was on to face the Rockies and it was a much tougher test for the Dynamiters as the Rockies would win the opening contest, 2-1. Kimberley took Game 2 and followed that up by winning Games 3 and 4 on the road to put the Rockies on the brink. The Rockies won Game 5 in overtime to give themselves a stay of execution but Kimberley finished off the Rockies in Game 6 to move on.
“We knew we had to get it done in Game 6,” said Daniels. “Anytime you get to a Game 7, anything can happen and your season could be over. We were down a bit after losing Game 5 but we didn’t want to go to a seventh game against those guys.”
Having a few days in between games was a big help in healing up some of the bruises, he added.
As mentioned, the Dynamiters have home ice advantage with the first two games in Kimberley on Tuesday and Wednesday. Games 3 and 4 are in Nelson on Friday and Saturday with Game 5, if necessary, back in Kimberley on March 21.
Daniels said he was expecting a good turnout in the stands for Game 1.
“We always get good crowds out to watch us and even more so in the playoffs,” he said. “It definitely helps being at home because the fans give us the energy and home ice is always huge in the playoffs. We were a bit nervous at the start (of the playoffs) but we’ve all settled in and we all have a feel for it now. Columbia Valley was a solid team and they gave us a good run but we got past it and now it’s a new task at hand.”