Kimberley Dynamiters captain Jason Richter (pictured Jan. 30 at Creston) is KIJHL scoring champion and the catalyst for an explosive Nitros squad intent on success this post-season.

Kimberley Dynamiters captain Jason Richter (pictured Jan. 30 at Creston) is KIJHL scoring champion and the catalyst for an explosive Nitros squad intent on success this post-season.

KIJHL: Captain’s courage

Jason Richter is the KIJHL scoring champion and catalyst for a Kimberley Dynamiters squad bound for the post-season

Kimberley Dynamiters captain Jason Richter is the 2014-15 KIJHL scoring champion.

Collecting two goals and an assist over the course of a pair of victories against the Grand Forks Border Bruins and Golden Rockets pushed the Nitros captain to 39 goals and 31 assists on the season.

With 70 points to his credit, Richter finished the campaign tied atop the KIJHL scoring charts with Osoyoos Coyotes forward Aaron Azevedo (25 goals, 70 points).

As the KIJHL regular-season was coming to a close, when asked about the scoring race, Richter didn’t hesitate to bring the conversation right back to the team.

“I try not to think about it. I could really care less if I win [the scoring race] or not, Richter said Feb. 3. “It’s all about the team and how many points the team gets. We just want home-ice advantage.”

With home-ice in the bag for the KIJHL’s Eddie Mountain Division semifinal and a first-round playoff series set to begin Friday, Feb. 20 against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, it’s about time the ever-humble Richter gets his due.

As one traces back through the 2014-15 KIJHL regular season, whenever the conversation reverts to Jason Richter, these key words come to mind: consistent; effort; leadership; heart.

“You always tell kids, if they want to move to the next level, the biggest thing they can be is consistent…That’s Jason. You know you’re going to get 100 per cent from him every night,” said Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks Jan. 19 after a two-game road trip through the Okanagan Division.

“We play a system that does require some shot-blocking. Two or three times I’ve seen him go head first and block shots. Without that you don’t get anybody else doing it.

“He just works so hard. There isn’t a better captain in the league, in my opinion, just because of the effort he puts into it. When you have him as a teammate, you better jump on board or you look pretty silly.

“Without his leadership, I don’t think we’re where we are.”

So where are the Dynamiters right now?

With an 8-3 victory over the Grand Forks Border Bruins Saturday and a 3-2 triumph over the Golden Rockets Sunday, the Nitros wrapped up the campaign with a 10-game winning streak and plenty of momentum heading into the 2015 KIJHL post-season.

With Richter providing the spark, the Dynamiters exploded to a 32-15-2-3 (69 points) finish in 2014-15, the franchise’s best record since going 36-14-1-1 (74 points) in the 2011-12 campaign — a year before Richter came into the picture.

Despite finishing the season second in the Eddie Mountain Division behind the experienced Fernie Ghostriders, the Nitros have been, arguably, the best team in the KIJHL since the calendar flipped from December 2014 to January 2015.

In 16 games in the new year, the Dynamiters are 14-1-1-0. The only loss counting against Richter and his crew came in the form of a defaulted contest — an ineligible player mix-up Jan. 2 against the Columbia Valley Rockies — and a game that finished with an 8-1 final score in favour of the Dynamiters.

Not including the default blemish, the Dynamiters went undefeated in 2015, the only tie a 3-3 pretzel with the KIJHL regular-season champion Osoyoos Coyotes. Not too shabby.

Richter, a 5-foot-8 native of Cranbrook, has already been named the Kimberley Dynamiters’ most valuable player and most inspirational player for the 2014-15 season. He remains a strong candidate to bring home the Eddie Mountain Division and KIJHL’s MVP awards.

Whether blocking shots to preserve a Tyson Brouwer shutout or making the simple play to get the puck out of the defensive zone on a penalty kill, there has been no shortage of moments featuring a selfless Richter sacrificing himself for the rest of his teammates.

“He is a great guy. He’s obviously skilled, everybody knows that,” Brouwer said Feb. 8. “But he’s the heart and soul of this team.

“I don’t know if we could really do it without him.”

This season, the third-year Dynamiter skated in all 52 of his team’s regular-season games for the first time in his KIJHL career.

In those 52 contests, Richter registered 18 multi-point performances, topped by a three-goal, five-point effort Dec. 6 against the Nelson Leafs. To hammer the point home, Richter chipped in three four-point performances as well.

A season-high seven-game point streak from Oct. 12 through Oct. 29 saw Richter tally six goals and 13 points.

His 39 goals were tops in the KIJHL. His 70 points were tied for first in the KIJHL. He registered KIJHL career-highs in goals (39), assists (31) and points (70), bringing his KIJHL totals to an impressive 75-72-147 in 147 career games.

The Dynamiters haven’t advanced beyond the division final since making a trip to the conference finals in the 2004-05 season, in which they fell to the eventual KIJHL-champion Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

“Every hockey team that is successful needs a Jason Richter,” Bancks said Nov. 20. “He is a guy who, when he is out there on the ice, he puts in such an effort — blocking shots, second effort everywhere, takes a hit.

“Basically, he embarrasses guys into playing the way he plays. It’s pretty phenomenal. We’re very fortunate to have him.”

With Jason Richter playing the best hockey of his KIJHL career, this could be the year the Kimberley Dynamiters push beyond the Eddie Mountain Division final.

Richter and the Dynamiters open the 2015 KIJHL playoffs and their quest for a KIJHL championship Friday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. when the Creston Valley Thunder Cats visit the Kimberley Civic Centre for Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eddie Mountain Division semifinal.

Cranbrook Daily Townsman