The Fernie Ghostriders reclaimed home-ice advantage from the Kimberley Dynamiters Wednesday night with a 7-4 victory in Game 3 in front of 857 fans at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
“I’ll tell ya, it was a really emotional game both ways,” Ghostriders head coach and general manager Craig Mohr told Sara Moulton of the Fernie Free Press. “At times, we were real good and at times they had all the momentum, all the play. We’d kind of fight back and get it.
“It was just one of those games where, for long stretches, one team would just be all over the other team. I credit that they hung in there. We didn’t play our best game tonight. We made some mistakes, but we hung in there.”
While the 7-4 score might suggest a one-sided win for the visitors, Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eddie Mountain Division final was up for grabs until Ghostriders captain Dylan Robertson iced the victory with an empty-net goal in the final 30 seconds of regulation to make it a 6-4 game.
The empty-net marker was Robertson’s third of the night.
“What can you say about our captain?” Mohr said. “Unbelievable game. Unbelievable. That’s a captain who took his team on his back and said, ‘We’re not losing this game,’ and got it done.
“Obviously he’s our captain for a reason.”
The 20-year-old native of Sparwood previously scored in the second period to put his team ahead 3-1, before registering the 5-4 go-ahead goal midway through the third period.
He finished the night with three goals and an assist to his credit.
“Burgess went around the net and I was hollering in front,” Robertson told Moulton, recounting his winning goal. “I wanted it so bad. I knew the net was open, the goalie was still on the ground. [Burgess] fed it out front and I just poked it in.”
Through 40 minutes of play, the two teams had gone back and forth, battling to a 3-3 draw heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Despite the even score, the shot clock read 28-11 in favour of the host Dynamiters and even though his team came out on the losing end Wednesday night, head coach Jerry Bancks wasn’t disappointed in his team’s effort.
“I thought we skated well, I thought we moved the puck well, lots of good scoring chances and put some in,” Bancks said, “We just gave them stuff. They gave us one, too.
“It was kind of a game of mistakes early on and then we just kept making them, which cost us the game.”
The first glaring mistake of the game came with the Ghostriders up 1-0 as Nitros captain Jason Richter intercepted a pass from defenceman Travis Thomsen before snapping one past Ghostriders goaltender Jeff Orser to tie the game.
The next came on a faulty line change by the Ghostriders as Eric Buckley got in behind the defence to put a shorthanded breakaway goal past Orser to pull his team with one goal after Robertson had made it 3-1.
After falling behind, the Nitros stormed back to take a 4-3 lead in the third period when forward Braden Saretsky stepped out of the penalty box and took a pass from Jared Marchi before speeding down the left wing and firing one high glove on Orser’s short side.
“Once we got up on them 4-3 there we kind of took it for granted,” Saretsky said. “We didn’t come out as hungry as they did and it cost us. It cost us the game. It’s something we’ve got to work on.”
On a near carbon copy of Buckley’s goal, Keebler snuck in behind the Nitros power play in the third period, putting a shorthanded breakaway effort past Dynamiters goaltender Brody Nelson, tying the game 4-4.
That was perhaps the most costly error of the night for the Dynamiters as Robertson went on to give his team the lead before then providing the insurance tally to close out the night.
“Whenever we can win in Kimberley’s rink, it’s a big deal, especially in playoffs,” Robertson said. “It’s big. They stole one in our barn, we stole one from theirs. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.”
The Ghostriders now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Orser made 30 stops for the win and even found a way on to the scoresheet with an assist on Keebler’s game-tying goal in the third period.
At the other end, Nelson stopped 16 of 22 shots. Once again, affiliate player Callum Macleod backed up Nelson with Tyson Brouwer (lower-body injury) on the shelf day-to-day.
The Eddie Mountain Division final continues Friday night as Game 4 gets underway at 7 p.m. from the Kimberley Civic Centre.