Even though Fernie hockey players Jeff Zmurchyk and Fraser Abdallah were surprised about being selected for the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League All-Star team, they quickly proved in Saturday’s game, why they are called All-Stars.
The Kootenay Conference All-Star team beat the Okanagan/Shuswap All-Stars 10 – 3.
“I was really nervous on Saturday. I don’t get nervous for anything, but it was a different environment. But after I made my first save the nerves went away,” said Abdallah, who was the goaltender for the Kootenay team for the last two periods of the game.
He said that when he came out on the ice at the beginning of the game and the announcers said his name, he got a louder cheer.
Abdallah was surprised he ended up playing with the All-Stars.
“Because it was my first year I thought I might be playing with the Prospects,” he said.
Fernie Ghostriders head coach Will Verner, who also coached the Kootenay All-Star team, was impressed with Abdallah’s performance on Saturday night.
“Fraser played really well. He let one in, that bounced off his head, but he made some really good rebound-control saves,” said Verner.
Ghostriders defensemen, Zmurchyk, said, “I was pretty excited about being picked for the All-Stars. Not many people get the chance to play in an All-Star game so it was a big opportunity for me.”
He said he likes putting on a bit of a show, and being on home-ice in his hometown meant that he could put on a show for the hometown fans.
“It was a lot more personal for me to play for the All-Stars in my hometown,” said Zmurchyk. “I think I had a lot more fun with it than some of the other guys.”
For Abdallah and Zmurchyk, the All-Star game was a chance to play with players like Mike Wiest and Ryan Aynsley, who play for the Castlegar Rebels, one of the Ghostriders’ biggest rivals.
“It was different to play with your rivals. You still have that rivalry, but you put it aside. They’re all good guys,” said Zmurchyk.
The fans could see that even though the All-Stars were playing a skilled game, they were still having fun with each other.
“I wasn’t watching the game as a coach,” said Verner. “I was watching as a fan.”
The feeling of the game was much different on Friday night when the Prospects took to the ice.
The game was close but in the end the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference Prospects took the win 6 – 4.
“It was a really good game, it was the top 16 and 17-year-olds in the league,” said Verner.
He said that when the Prospects played it was a much more physical game with a lot of contact.
There were a lot of scouts at the Prospects game and different people from the KIJHL, which encouraged competition on the ice.
Verner said that the weekend was a big success.
At the Prospects game on Friday night, 650 fans filled the stands, and 877 fans attended Saturday’s All-Star game.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Zmurchyk. “I’m glad I got to know some of those guys, and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with them.”