With arms around each other in support, the Fernie Ghostriders saluted the crowd and left the ice at Fernie Memorial Arena on Monday, some for the last time.
The Fernie Ghostriders’ season came to an emotional close Monday night after they lost game four of round two 3-0 against the Kimberley Dynamiters and were eliminated from the 2019 KIJHL Playoffs.
The division rivals bested Fernie once again this season, this time with a 4-0 playoff record against Fernie and an 8-0 record for their first eight games.
“I’m really proud of our group’s effort, that’s a good team over there in Kimberley. I’m not going to be surprised if they win the whole thing again this year,” said Ghostriders head coach Jeff Wagner.
“The level of compete and determination you need to win in the playoffs against high quality teams is an invaluable lesson for us, for sure,” he added.
Victory against Kimberley was not a foreign concept for the Ghostriders, who previously beat them in the regular season.
Wagner was confident going up against the division leaders, however, he said the puck flew in favour of the Dynamiters more often than for Fernie.
“You always want to have confidence in your team and I thought we were really going to make a push this year,” he said.
The Ghostriders had a facelift this season with an entirely new coaching staff, led by the newcomer from Calgary. Wagner was named Eddie Mountain Division coach of the year and signed on with the Ghostriders for another two seasons prior to playoffs starting.
Looking to next year, Wagner said he’s excited.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I was just telling the guys in the room; when I first showed up my vision was a little bit different than they were used to and they made my job easy this year. Full buy-in from the group, returning guys, and a full buy-in from the group that came in a little bit later on in the year.”
“When you have that kind of group and that kind of camaraderie amongst the guys, it makes coming to the rink every day pretty special.”
Comparing his team now to the start of the season, Wagner said they’re as different as night and day. Asked if he will change anything going into next season, Wagner said it’s still too early to tell.
“We like our structure, we like the style we play, but we’re probably going to have to add certain things in certain areas,” he said.
“Physicality, speed… what Kimberley showed us tonight is we were probably still the slower team that had to maintain instead of attack.
“There will definitely be some changes structurally next year but we like the stepping stone that we’ve created.”
For a few players, this was their last year as a Ghostrider.
Captain Keelan Saworski, forward David Lenzin, defenseman Tristan Downe, right winger Brenden Nemes and defenseman Brayden Dey will bid farewell to the team.