By Matt Laurin
Spring may have arrived too early for the Fernie Ghostriders, but the offseason presents new opportunities – both for the team, and for the players.
After finishing the regular season with an impressive 35 – 13 – 1 – 3 record, on route to a fourth-consecutive Eddie Mountain Division title, the Ghostriders playoff run came up short in the second round of the KIJHL playoffs.
The Golden Rockets beat the Ghostriders 4 – 1 in game six, and move on to face the Castlegar Rebels in the Kootenay Conference Final.
Meanwhile, members of this year’s Ghostriders team parted ways – many for the final time.
“It’s really tough to say goodbye to such an amazing group of guys,” said forward Dylan Rota. “The thing that’s tough about junior hockey is that guys always have to move on.”
Rota, who finished the season with 34 points in 36 games, will face that decision when he begins his final year of junior next season.
“It’s kind of surreal to think that my junior hockey career could be coming to an end next year and is winding down, but exciting to still have another chance to go out there and win a championship,” said Rota.
For other Ghostriders, it means the end of the road. Fernie will say goodbye to several 20-year olds, including captain Josh McKissock and goaltender Chris Solecki.
The veterans move on, but for many of them, hockey is still a priority.
Solecki hopes to continue his playing career, this time at the college level. He is in talks with several teams in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League, and hopes to make a decision soon.
He said he is thankful for the opportunities the Riders have provided for him.
“Fernie is such a great place to play, and certainly the last two years playing here have been the most fun years of hockey that I’ve ever had. The way things are run, and the way everyone supports the team, is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” said Solecki.
While some junior careers come to an end, some are just beginning.
Rookie defenseman Jeff Rayman enjoyed a breakout junior season, which included 10 points and 86 penalty minutes.
“Being a first year junior, you’re obviously going to be a bit nervous and have to step out of your comfort zone,” said Rayman. “As the year went on, I felt like I was stepping up. I wasn’t worried about the speed of the game or the physicality, but just felt at home on the ice.”
Standing well over six-feet, the 16-year-old Fernie product will now set his sights on the WHL, where a tryout awaits this summer with the Spokane Chiefs.
The young blueliner is confident his game will translate at the next level.
“I’m a big kid, and have to use my size to my advantage. Playing against guys that are older, just because I’m 16, doesn’t mean I’m going to shy away from the physical game,” said Rayman.
“They’ve said that I have to work hard in the offseason, but I should have every chance to make the team next year.”
For potential future Ghostriders, the offseason begins April 19th, when the team begins its spring evaluation camp.
As always, stay tuned to the Free Press for updates.