The Fernie Ghostriders crushed the Columbia Valley Rockies in a zesty game on Saturday night, marking their last season game before playoffs begin next Friday.
A ceremonious game, the night began with the Riders graciously donating a cheque worth $1,000 to Angel Flight, a local charity enabling free air transportation for deserving patients. The donation was followed by the team presenting their retiring equipment manager, Darren Pattison, a personally embroidered Riders jacket while the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Having stuck by the team’s side for 23 years, Pattison was a ray of light in Fernie’s hockey community.
As the game began, both teams fumed out of the gate, slamming three shots into net in a fiery first period. The Rockies scored the game’s first goal, but with the stoke of a season’s worth of wins, perseverance, and puck hunger under their belt, the Riders tied the score shortly thereafter. Despite their best efforts, Columbia Valley finished the first period leading 2-1.
The second period saw the Rockies charging with an early goal. However the Riders maintained their determination. Wasting no time, they quickly picked the score up to 2-3 before a throng of penalties rang throughout the remainder of the period.
“Emotions run high and guys want to set a physical tone early. They want to set an expectation for playoffs. But when that happens, sometimes calls are missed, and it gets worse,” commented head coach Jeff Wagner on the tension between the teams. “It gets out of hand. Tonight that’s what happened, both teams were emotional.”
Despite the animosity, the Riders held on. Just seconds before the end of the second period, the crowd exploded to their feet as they tied the score at 3-all.
“It’s not over till it’s over,” shouted out a youngster wearing a Ghostriders jersey, cheering in the stands.
The Riders started off strong in the third period, sinking a goal right out of the gates. This was followed by two goals from the Rockies. Ferociously slicing the ice and relentlessly chasing pucks, the Riders tied the score at 5-all by the time the buzzer sounded.
“Our goalie, Ethan Fitzgerald, really backstopped us when we made mistakes in front of him. He made some really big saves,” praised Wagner.
In a heated overtime, the teams alternated possession of the puck, each taking turns shooting ceaselessly at the net. In the second period of overtime, Greg Susinski sunk the game winning goal, as everybody in the arena went wild.
“Greg Susinski had two goals tonight. He’s a defenseman so you don’t really rely on your “D” to score goals all the time. But he scored a goal in regulation and he topped it off with the game winner in overtime. He really stood out,” said Wagner about the game’s Home Star.
A hard fought game by both teams, the Riders leave the regular season behind on a high. Heading into playoffs, Wagner stands confidently beside his team, who he praises for always finding a way to win, even when they do not play up to their standard.
“I’m really proud of our group. We were a younger group. we had 13 rookies by the end of the year,” said Wagner. “We clinched third in the league, and to be able to do that with such a young group of guys that are trying to establish themselves as junior hockey players for the first time, is pretty impressive. So we really like our group going into playoffs.”
The Riders kick off playoffs against Columbia Valley on home ice this upcoming Friday.