The KIJHL Notebook: Standout player performances


The Kimberley Dynamiters are back to work, getting ready to compete for the 2024 Mowatt Cup, which they host April 18 to 21.

“This month hasn’t been much fun for the guys,” says Dynamiters head coach-general manager Derek Stuart. “Our practices have been focused on competing, battling drills and conditioning as we’ve hit the reset button. For me, the most important thing is battling and competing for pucks – wanting it more than the other team is something that was lacking in the playoffs.”

A learning lesson taken from their opening round loss in the Teck Cup playoffs to the Columbia Valley Rockies is that “we just took them too lightly and weren’t ready to do what it took in round one.” Stuart says that’s a “mistake that can’t happen again.”

Stuart wants to make sure his team is in a position to compete with the champions of the three leagues (KIJHL, Pacific Junior Hockey League and Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League).

Players who Stuart feels could step up and rise to the occasion are Jackson Murphy, Nicholas Hughes, Nate Murdoch and Tyler Lindal.

“I’m expecting everyone to produce and be much better than they were in the playoffs, but those are some players that I think people might not know too much about that were outstanding for us in the first round,” he says.

After the Easter weekend, the Dynamiters will begin focusing on what it means to be in the tournament and have a chance to win, and what it means to the community. There is excitement building around the community and those involved with it.

“The Dynamiters have never won the gold medal at the provincial championship. They’ve had some success getting there – some silver medals, a bronze – but that’s something you know that could be a motivator.”

Now a look at the four teams vying for a Teck Cup Final berth.

Kootenay Conference

“It’s do or die,” says Beaver Valley Nitehawks head coach-general manager Terry Jones, when asked about his team’s response in Game 4 as they face elimination again today on home ice. “We’re taking things one game at a time. I feel like Bull Durham. You really have to take it shift after shift. I thought we were resilient and made some big penalty kills when we needed to. We had players selling out to block shots. Connor Stojan was the wall that we needed him to be.”

Jones added ultimately it comes down to believing in what they are doing and what they’re about.

“That’s the key word,” he says. “No matter whether you are down three or up three, you know that everybody is trying to win. Everyone is trying to do the things that it takes. Kudos goes to Fernie, they have been a tough team. Their goaltending has been outstanding and defence is solid. They’ve scored when they needed to. We know we are in for a battle.”

One thing Jones knows is they don’t have to veer far from where they have been because the margin between winning and losing in the KIJHL Teck Cup playoffs is small.

“It’s about keeping our shape as a unit out on the ice.  It’s blocking the key shots when we need to block them. It’s as simple as making good changes – making a good dump and not allowing them to make quick transitions, which they have done well against us. It’s about the little things.”

Twenty-year-old Adam Redding, Jones says, has really stepped up. He’s playing as if he’s not ready to return home to Spokane, Wash., Jones praised his poise, as well as the play of defencemen Lucas Gartner and Brody Martini who are eating big minutes. Gartner has played 25 minutes, per Hudl Instat data, in the last two games, while Martini has played between 20 and 22 minutes.

“Everyone is going.”


Cole Fournier and Taylor Haggerty lead the Fernie Ghostriders with six points in four games against the Nitehawks, helping them take a 3-1 series lead. Fournier leads with four goals, while Ben Skarsen has three. Landon Hedges has been another key offensively with four points. The Ghostriders have used both goalies, with Nick Kunyk earning two wins and has a .946 save percentage with a 1.87 goals against average. Levi Hall has a win and an OT loss and has a .914 SP with a 3.40 GAA.

Ghostriders head coach-general manager Ty Valin says for them to win the series today, they have to stick to their game plan and play with a lot of pace. Valin also wants to see his team play more disciplined.  

“Out of all the teams remaining, we’re by far the most disciplined,” said Valin, as his team has 145 penalty minutes, followed by Revelstoke with 221, Princeton at 253 and Beaver Valley with 262. “That is something we worked on all season and carried that into the playoffs. It’s something I know we pride ourselves on.”

Valin added that it’s been a tight-checking series that has been fun to be part of.

“It’s fun as a coach to stand back and watch both teams go at it,” he says. “For us, watching our guys be able to elevate themselves and play to the best of their ability, it’s been fun.”


Okanagan-Shuswap Conference

“We need to find a way to refocus and keep it alive in Game 5,” says Princeton Posse head coach-general manager Mark Readman, with his team trailing the Revelstoke Grizzlies. “It’s just sticking to our structure as our game plan works. Revelstoke plays a defence-first style and are patient with their approach. Our group has been able to match it well.”

Readman talked about weathering the storm as the Grizzlies have always been able to find a way to come back. They did it against Chase and Kamloops. It’s a matter of finding a way to score on reigning KIJHL Top Goalie Jozef Kuchaslo, who was named the Doug Birks Division Top Goalie this season.

“We’ve probably had 15 to 20 phenomenal Grade A chances that he has managed to keep out,” says Readman. “He is single-handedly responsible for where the results of the series are right now.”

The Posse have their own standouts in Tyson Horiachka (2G, A in 4GP), Vinay Junek (1G in 4GP) who Readman says have “been studs in the the series” and Anmol Garcha (2G, A in 4GP) “has been playing some damn, good hockey.” Readman added that defenceman Grady Sterling-Ponech is having another good series.

Revelstoke Grizzlies’ general manager Ryan Parent joked he’s “gonna need a new pacemaker soon” when asked about his team’s play as they are one win away from advancing to the Teck Cup Final.

“I’m on the edge of my seat every game as it might be the most exciting series that I’ve been a part of. It’s a credit to the character of our group and coaching staff, who have done a fantastic job working with our guys,” says Parent.

He’s been impressed with their character as they battle back and get the job done against a strong Posse team. Parent says they are well coached by Mark Readman and a disciplined group.

“They are going to give you their A game every night. We’ve had to work really hard to be competitive against their group,” he says.

One final thing on the Grizzlies. Fans throughout the league have probably seen the teal jerseys the Grizzlies have been wearing since February. It’s how they are celebrating their 30th anniversary. The jerseys from their first season in the KIJHL have created a buzz and the limited amount they ordered for their booster booth sold out within a week.

“I think people are a little nostalgic there,” says Parent. “We have a proud history and our guys are excited and proud to wear them. I think they look really sharp and we may continue with them based on the fact people are loving them.”

Parent says it was their way to celebrate their history because they view the team as “being a part of the community, not a team that plays hockey in the community. We want our team to be involved.”