KIJHL: Wins, weather and trades in busy weekend for Riders
By Sara Moulton
Free Press Staff
It was a weekend of wins, wild weather and wrangling for the Ghostriders as competition begins to heat up in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Amid the doom and gloom of severe snowstorm warnings on Friday afternoon, the Riders boarded the bus to Kimberley for a much-anticipated meeting with their main division rivals. Both sides came out swinging right from the first puck drop, and the promise of a showdown created almost as much of a buzz in the stands as on the ice.
Ghostriders forward Justin Peers was the first to contribute to the scoreboard with a goal in the final minute of the first period, which was countered midway through the second by Kimberley’s Keenan Haase on a power play. It was to be the only time the Dynamiters would find the net throughout the night, while the Fernie squad continued to strut their stuff with goals from Aaron Neufeld, Cole Keebler and a second for the particularly enthusiastic Peers. However, as the Riders whipped up their 4-1 storm inside the arena, the weather outside was also making a mark. A blizzard descended on the region as the team travelled home to Fernie, delaying the relatively short journey by several hours and making for a much later arrival than anticipated.
“We’ve grown used to the travel here in Fernie; it’s not a huge deal for us,” reflected rookie Tayler Sincennes after the slow trip home.
Regarding the game itself, Sincennes added, “It was a tough game; they were talking a lot about their own barn so it was good to go in and get the two points from them.”
Boosted by Friday’s win, the Ghostriders were back at the Fernie Memorial Arena to host the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Saturday night. The most recent battle between the two teams in Creston resulted in a surprising 4-0 shutout in favour of the Thunder Cats, making this weekend’s game a must-win grudge match for the Riders.
Creston started strong, scoring two unanswered goals in the first period, before a renewed surge by the Ghostriders after the first break resulted in goals from Joel Burgess, Keebler and Peers. Creston managed to slide one more past Brandon Butler during the second period, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Riders from running away with the game as Cavin Tilsley, Evan Reid and Sam Plaquin all contributed to the scoreboard during the third for a final result of 6-3.
With two more decisive wins under their belt, the Ghostriders have already proved themselves as a force to be reckoned with this season. However, the announcement on Sunday that the club had acquired 19-year-old defenseman Will Lightfoot and top-5 KIJHL scorer Doan Smith will be sure to concern their opponents even further.
Lightfoot has previously played with the Ghostriders before gaining some junior “A” experience, and is expected to add some size and strength to the team’s blue line. Head coach and general manager Craig Mohr said that the club has been keen to have Lightfoot back on their roster and that his return has been an easy one among the existing players.
“We were definitely looking to shore up some of the toughness on our team … I thought we needed some more grit, a guy who is not afraid to drop the gloves when he has to,” said Mohr.
He added, “He’s definitely more of a penalty-kill, shut down, defensive-defenseman, and he’ll be in roles like that.”
Regarding Smith, Mohr explained that the trade with the struggling Columbia Valley Rockies came about quickly on the weekend when the Invermere club contacted him.
“[Smith’s] name came up and I said that we’d absolutely be interested … he brings an edge to his game, he’s got some bite to him and I think that’s something that appealed to me,” explained Mohr.
The Ghostriders traded Kale Johnston and Tyler Rebelato for the high-profile Smith, with just over one month remaining before the final roster deadline on January 10, 2015. Both Lightfoot and Smith are already in Fernie and are expected to play during the team’s road trip this weekend. Don’t miss the opportunity to see them in action next weekend when the Riders host Beaver Valley and the Rockies in a double-header at the Fernie Memorial Arena.