The Riders played their last game of the season against Columbia Valley on March 3, closing off a successful year chock full of hard battles, jubilant victories, and notable improvement.
Being next to unstoppable coming out of the Christmas break, with stats resting at 16-2-1, the team had one of their strongest regular seasons in recent memory. Unfortunately, one tough week in March ended up defining the season for them. Heading in optimistically, they unfortunately could not regain their footing after stumbling throughout the first round of playoffs. Though their stint in the playoffs was short-lived, the Riders left every last ounce of passion on the ice.
In their last two games of what ended up being a four-game playoff series against Columbia Valley, the Riders lost 4-3 and 4-0 in games played on March 2 and March 3, respectively. Despite the losses at the end, the Riders held their heads up high in the wake of an honourable season.
“We were really proud of our accomplishments in the regular season. Coming into the year, we had a lot of turnover and had a lot of young players step up and surpass our expectations,” said head coach Jeff Wagner. “Our group of veterans guided these players early in the season and created an easy transition for them coming from minor hockey to junior.”
The Riders officially end their regular season with a total of 49 games played. In those games, they came out with 33 wins and 11 losses, and a total of 71 points scored. They finished second in the Eddie Mountain Division for their regular season, only being outscored by Kimberley who won 40, lost six, and scored a total of 83 points.
Reflecting on the most memorable games of the season, Wagner said matches against Revelstoke and Kimberley stand out.
“Playing against Revelstoke we performed at an extremely high level and won 4-1 against the defending champions. We also had four games where we played Kimberley tough all night. The results of these highly competitive games were a loss in overtime 2-1, a loss 2-1 in regulation, and 2 wins, one at home and one on the road, scored 3-2 and 2-0 respectively. Those five games were all playoff style games that were fun to be a part of,” remarked Wagner.
Stand out players for the Riders this season include the Eddie Mountain Division’s Goaltender of the Year, Ethan Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald earned himself two shoutouts this season, was recognized as First Star, and finished with impressive statistics that included a celebrated save percentage of 0.921.
“Ethan Fitzgerald really turned a corner for us after the Christmas break. It took him a couple of months to really find his groove but once he found it he was a force and gave us a chance to win on a nightly basis,” said Wagner. “The head coaches/GMs throughout the league vote on the year end awards and he was voted Top Goalie of the Division, which was quite a deserving honour.”
Going forward, a handful of the Riders have signed with college hockey teams. Greg Susinski, Jordon Kromm and Hunter Maximnuk have each committed to Jamestown University, and will henceforth be playing for the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Maximnuk is eligible to return next season should he decide to defer his schooling for a year. Dylan Defosse, Gavin Lawrie and Nolan Steer have seen interest from various college teams, however have yet to make final decisions. There are also a number of players that have received Junior A interest for the upcoming year, but finalization will be determined during the off season. Ultimately, the future looks promising for each Ghostrider player as they continue to further their journey in the sport of hockey.