The KIJHL Teck Cup championships are now down to the Kimberley Dynamiters, Beaver Valley Nitehawks, defending champion Revelstoke Grizzlies and the President’s Cup winning Princeton Posse.
The Dynamiters are playing in their seventh straight Kootenay Conference Final and have faced the Nitehawks six times in KIJHL history, with each time winning three. The last time they met in 2018-19, the Dynamiters won in five games. The teams will clash after each won their last series in seven games – the Dynamiters erased a 3-0 lead against the Fernie Ghostriders, while the Nitehawks came from behind 3-1 against Creston Valley.
The Okanagan Conference Final between the Posse and Grizzlies will be the second time both organizations face each other to advance to the league final. The first time was in 2009-10 when the Grizzlies won in four games.
|It was after Game 4 against the Ghostriders, an 8-2 win that Kimberley Dynamiters goalie Trystan Self started to feel like “my old self again.”
The former Calgary Royals goalie made 32 saves in that game, then surrendered four goals on 94 shots the next three games and had a 36-save shutout performance in the deciding game.
“I definitely used my speed and I find that I play the puck quite a bit. The repetition is what got me back into shape,” said Self.
Helping his team erase a 3-0 series deficit was an awesome feeling for the 6-1, 175-pound goalie, but he credited his teammates for what was accomplished.
“I don’t think I played spectacularly in any way to help us win every single game,” he said. “We just knew what needed to be done and how every single player should be playing. We just had to leave it all out there.”
Dynamiters fans will be happy to know that Self is nearing his best form. With the way he performed those last four games and how his teammates played in front of him, Self is very confident in what they can do.
“If we don’t slow down, I don’t think anyone is going to be stopping us,” he said. “Just the way we have been playing is so dominant.”
In the final four games, the Dynamiters outscored the Ghostriders 16-6.
|When asked what his first playoff run has done to help him improve as a goalie, Connor Stojan of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks says “it’s been unreal.”
“The KIJHL playoffs have been so much fun. The fans, not only in BV, but even on the road, the rinks are so packed and electric and every game just means so much,” said Stojan, who played in front of 495 fans at the Fruitvale – Beaver Valley Arena in Game 7 against Creston Valley. “You learn a lot about yourself, adversity, and the ups and downs through these playoffs. It’s definitely been one of the best times in my hockey career.”
Stojan came from the Grande Prairie Storm program and said he feels confident every time he’s in net. And regardless of the situation, Stojan feels he can go in and give the Nitehawks a chance to win and his teammates believe that. Stojan says the coaching staff expresses that same confidence.
“They have made it pretty easy to go in there every night and battle and do what I do best,” he said.
Heading into their series with Kimberley, Stojan says a big thing for the Nitehawks is that at the end of their series with Creston Valley, “we really figured out how we have to play and what we do best as a team.”
“We’re confident in our playing style and systems and we know exactly how we have to play every game,” he added. “When we play our style of hockey, there are not a lot of teams that can compete with us. It’s just going to be a matter of execution in the Kimberley series.”
|Curtis Gould has been a key piece to the Princeton Posse’s success this season. Every game he brings his physical, defensive presence and he’s been happy with his play.
“My job this year has been focusing on our D-zone and getting the puck out, killing rushes – just being the best defenceman I can be,” says Gould, who loves playing for his hometown team.
Gould does his best to lead by example and to push his teammates every time he’s on the ice. He’s improved his play in the defensive zone and eliminating chances for opponents before they even enter their zone.
“It’s been pretty easy this year with my defensive partner (Grady Sterling-Ponech),” said Gould, who leads the Posse with 164 hits. “I’ve been lucky to have him all year. It’s been easy to play with him as he’s a good player.”
Gould said the team likes that how they have produced offensively, and added that their defence and goaltending has been phenomenal. Against Revelstoke, they want to play hard, physical and fast.
“It’s going to be a battle, Revelstoke is hard, they are physical and they don’t stop working,” he said.
|Of the four remaining teams in the Teck Cup championships, the Revelstoke Grizzlies have allowed the fewest goals against with 10 in eight games. Their goalies Jozef Kuchaslo and Owen Albers have combined for a .945 save percentage and a 1.17 goals against average with two shutouts, both by Kuchaslo.
“They’re unbelievable. We’ve been going with Jo more, but Alby, on any given night he can hop in the net and we’re confident we’d get the win,” said McPhee. “We’re super lucky to have that goalie tandem.”
McPhee says the group is happy with how simple they are playing and executing their systems.
“We’re playing really physical and defensively, we’re not allowing much,” he said. “Everyone has really been stepping up, a lot of first year guys as well. Hopefully we can keep it rolling. This should be a really good test against Princeton. I’m excited.”
When the teams hit the ice on Friday, McPhee will be facing his former Leduc Oil Kings U18AAA teammate in Posse goalie Peyton Trzaska. The two played together in 2019-20 and McPhee knows how good Trzaska is.
“It’s going to be a war honestly,” added McPhee of the matchup. “It’s going to be physical, fast. It’s going to be tough.”