Keegan McDowell (12) will be a key piece of the Dynamiters leadership group as captain.
Leading up to the start of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s 2020-21 season, which starts Nov. 13, 2020, the league is publishing team previews.
These stories will highlight areas of focus for the respective organizations as well as players. We last featured the Kelowna Chiefs and now head to the Eddie Mountain Division to highlight the Kimberley Dynamiters.
Last season the Dynamiters had their sights set on winning a KIJHL championship - the Teck Cup. They finished first overall in the regular season standings, cruising to 40 wins in 49 games. They then advanced to the second round of the playoffs before the season was cancelled and were in position to win their second series.
Once COVID-19 abruptly ended the season to approval in late August, Dynamiters coach-general manager Derek Stuart says the uncertainty of so many things during that time made it impossible for him to even think about putting a team together.
During the off-season, he made three moves to strengthen his roster, re-acquiring Tyler Russell from the Osoyoos Coyotes, defenceman Danton L'Heureux from Chase and goalie Eric Scherger from the Summerland Steam. The Dynamiters also have 16 incoming rookies.
Eric Scherger (33) arrived in Kimberley from Summerland and will play a large factor in any success the team has this season. KIJHL photo
The Dynamiters will use the extended exhibition season to introduce systems and fundamentals for the players to play.
“Our six exhibition games will be a good way of evaluating who can do those things consistently and in turn who will make our regular season roster,” says Stuart. “In order to have success in this league, you need to be able to play different styles depending on your opponent and the arena you’re playing in. The size of the ice surfaces in our league vary so drastically that in my opinion it’s impossible to have success trying to play just one style. This year’s team will be no different than previous teams. We'll adjust our game if necessary and be able to play whatever style we think will give us the best chance to win.”
Any lack of motivation the players may have had during the extended training camp disappeared once Stuart and his staff informed the players of their exhibition schedule. The Dynamiters coach says considering the government’s reaction to COVID-19, and what it put the players through over seven months, “I think they’re just happy and excited to be able to play hockey again.”
Keegan McDowell returns for this third season and was named captain. Stuart says the Lethbridge, Alta., product has been one of the best players in the league since arriving.
“As a rookie in 2018-19, Keegan scored 30 +-plus goals, was 13th overall in league scoring and helped lead us to the KIJHL Finals. Last season, in 22 games, he scored nine goals and had 22 points.
Stuart increased their strength in goal by picking up Scherger. The Devon, Alta., product won 25 of 60 games with the Steam over the last two seasons.
“Eric is an established starter in this league,” says Stuart. “As a 20 year old, he has a calming presence in net, is very athletic and we are confident that we can have success with Eric as our starting goalie.”
The remaining Dynamiters returnees are unknown as seven are trying to earn roster spots at junior A camps. Stuart will have a better idea in early December when teams have to reduce their roster. Currently, the Dynamiters have six veterans and Stuart says the veteran group of his team could look very different.