Riders set sights on division title
By Matt Laurin
The Fernie Ghostriders beat the Creston Valley Thunder Cats 4 – 2 on Friday, before losing a 5 - 4 heartbreaker to the Kimberley Dynamiters on Saturday night in Fernie.
Slow starts continue to haunt the Riders, who once again fell behind early in both games.
“It just comes down to getting on our game plan right away, and not waiting to see what comes at us,” said Riders captain Josh McKissock. “It’s nice to know we can come back at any time during games, but we have to get off to a better start.”
Creston scored twice in the first four minutes, while holding Fernie scoreless through 40 minutes. That’s when the Riders special teams took over.
With the Thunder Cats in penalty trouble early in the third, the Riders powerplay exploded for three goals in less than four minutes.
McKissock opened the scoring on a nice feed from defenseman Matt Carr, who found the captain wide open at the side of the net.
“I just picked up a rebound and I knew that Kisser would be on the backside. We’ve been practising that play, so I just fed it to him and he buried a one-timer,” Carr said.
Carr would find the scoresheet less than two minutes later, unleashing a bomb from the point.
“I saw an opening on the left side and ended up getting up a slapshot nice and high, and it went in. It’s nice to get on the board in a game like that.”
Twenty-six seconds later, McKissock jumped on a rebound to give the Riders their first lead of the night. Tyler Gonzalez added an insurance marker with just over three minutes to play, on a nice rush with Joel Burgess.
On Saturday, the Riders once again spotted the visitors an early lead. Brett Luker scored a shorthanded goal just as Will Lightfoot finished serving a holding minor.
Anthony Gardner responded immediately for the home team, scoring two even strength goals, before Carr scored his 10th goal of the season on a late powerplay.
The Riders, who twice held a two-goal lead, had several chances to put the game away in overtime, but it was Isaac Schracher who played hero for the Dynamiters, scoring with only 40 seconds remaining.
Heading into the final month of the regular season, the Ghostriders (28 – 12 – 1 – 3) hold a two-point lead over the Golden Rockets. With only eight games to play, and six against division rivals, the Riders have the opportunity to win their fourth consecutive Eddie Mountain Division title.
McKissock, who won a KIJHL championship with the Revelstoke Grizzlies, knows how important it is to play good hockey down the stretch.
“You definitely want your A-game going into playoffs. We want to send a message to all the teams in our division, and be on top of our game heading into the most important time of year,” said the captain.
The Riders will have the opportunity to send that message this weekend, when they head to Creston tonight before once again hosting Kimberley tomorrow night. As always, puck drops at 7:30 p.m.