The Fernie Ghostriders are back – and looking strong – after a dominating performance against Creston Valley Thunder Cats in their second exhibition game of the season, their first in front of a home crowd on Friday, August 30.
The Riders won the match 5-3, but the following night faced the Thunder Cats away from home and lost 4-3. This put the Junior B team at one win, two losses so far in the exhibition series. Their first matchup of the exhibition series was against the Golden Rockets on August 28, which concluded in a 7-4 victory for the Rockets.
Ghostriders head coach Jeff Wagner admitted their home game on Friday was messy, but he said, this is to be expected at this stage of the season.
“Execution is not obviously as crisp as we like it, but I thought it was a really good building block from Wednesday night in Golden,” said Wagner.
“We had 18 guys play their first junior game in Golden, and we had quite a few guys also tonight play their second game. So it was nice to see that players came in and responded to the conversations that we’ve had over the last couple days since Golden. And we looked a lot better structurally,” he said.
Among the new rookies was Fernie local Dawson Hutchinson, who scored a crowd-stirring shorthanded breakaway goal for the Ghostriders.
A battle won in the Ghostriders corner by senior right winger Jordan Kromm was chipped up centre ice to Hutchinson who carried it up ice and rifled it past the goalie.
“It’s a big adrenaline rush but when you put it home, it’s a pretty good feeling,” said the 17-year-old.
Hutchinson said it was surreal to step out onto the ice in front of his home crowd, a feeling he has been looking forward to since he was a young hockey fan.
“I’ve always watched the Ghostriders,” he said. “You look up to the older guys, you want to be them.”
And now, the rookie left winger is one.
Coach Wagner said Hutchinson’s delivery on the breakaway goal was nice to see.
“Sometimes young guys will overthink that and try and deke (fake out), so it was nice to see that he didn’t overthink it, he stuck with what he was going to do and buried it,” said Wagner.
“A really good moment for him, and our team,” he added.
Compared to last year, the Ghostriders bench looks to have a mix of smaller, faster players as well as several bigger bodies.
“We talked about the fact that we want to play at a faster pace this year. I think in reflection from last season we definitely wanted to improve that area, not that we were a slow team but I felt that in the second round against Kimberley they were the faster team.
“Its a little bit tough to say right now just because we’re playing exhibitions, we don’t have a full lineup, other teams don’t have full lineups, but at this stage of the game we’re excited about the potential of what this team could look like in the next couple weeks,” said Wagner.
The Ghostriders’ final exhibition game of the pre-season was against the Princeton Posse on September 6 in which they took a 5-3 victory. They now look forward to their first regular game of the season on September 13, against the Nelson Leafs.
Their home opener will take place on September 21. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.