The Fernie Ghostriders ripped into their first game of the season on Oct. 18, playing a close match against the Columbia Valley Rockies that ended with a tight loss of 2-3.
“It was a really good opportunity for us as a coaching staff to see our group for the first time in game action,” said head coach, Jeff Wagner.
“Columbia Valley was the best team we could have asked for to play an exhibition game against because they have quite a few returners, and with a younger group it’s nice to see how they adjust to the junior game.”
The first period ended with the Riders up 1-0, a lead they maintained into the second period that ended with a score of 2-1. The match wrapped up following two goals scored by Columbia Valley in the third period.
With a new team compromised of just five returning players, Wagner praised the boys for their effort on the weekend, and looks forward to watching his team progress as the season ensues.
“I think we’re a group that works really hard, we have a ton of skill, and if we can learn the finer details of the game, lock down our systems, I think we’re going to be in really good shape.”
Sunday’s game was the first of a series of six exhibition games the team will play prior to stepping into their regular season on Nov. 13, with upcoming games scheduled against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, Kimberley Dynamiters, and another game against the Rockies.
According to Wagner, the exhibition games offer a great opportunity for the team to iron out their kinks before heading into the regular season, especially having been robbed of their typical fall training period due to the pandemic.
“This year, because of Covid, there wasn’t any camps, so a lot of it was focused on watching videos of players, talking to scouts and coaches from all over Western Canada, and having phone calls with players to see where they’re at.”
Due to the delays, the team stepped on the ice for the first time this season at their main camp on Sept. 25, with their first practice as a team following on Sept. 28.
According to Wagner, one of the major challenges the team will face this year is no longer being able to play for stands of screaming fans at the Fernie Memorial Arena.
“We’re going to be affected more than most teams just because we do have such a great following in the community,” said Wagner, adding that frequent COVID-19 testing and mandated isolation will also contribute to foreseen difficulties.
“If we’re on the ice with 14 players for practice, but go into a game with 19 players because they’ve got their Covid test and are ready to play without symptoms, it’ll be interesting to see how we go into game action without being prepared with practices throughout the week.”
However despite the changes and the challenges, Wanger remains optimistic about his team, his coaching staff, and what is to come this upcoming hockey season.