By Ezra Black
Fernie’s forechecking was red-hot Friday but fizzled Saturday as the Riders earned two of a possible four points over the weekend.
It was competent forechecking that helped the Riders defeat the hapless Spokane Braves 4-0 Friday night at Fernie Memorial Arena.
The Braves were outshot 49 to 17 and never found the back of the net while the Riders got goals from Keelan Saworski, Alex Cheveldave, Aidan Wilson and Tayler Sincennes.
“I thought as a group, we played a real good team game,” said Riders’ coach Craig Mohr. “We didn’t take Spokane lightly. They don’t have the greatest record but their young kids are real good hockey players and I thought our team game was real good defensively. We really didn’t give up much at all, hence the shutout.”
It would have been an easy game to take lightly but the Riders did what they were supposed to do: beat a team that was much lower in the standings. The Braves are not making the playoffs in their division. Spokane has earned eight wins in 45 games and has yet to score against the Riders at Fernie Memorial Arena.
The Riders shut down their number one line led by brothers Carter and Mason Jones and pinned the Braves down in their end for four and five minutes stretches.
“When you don’t let a team out of their own zone, normally good things are going to happen,” said Mohr.
Conversely, the Riders did not do a good job of forechecking during their 5-3 loss to the Nelson Leafs on Saturday.
Fernie could not sustain any pressure in Nelson’s end. Mohr said their intention was to keep the Leafs on the defensive but things did not go according to plan.
Shots on goal were more or less even after three periods but the Riders made some bad turnovers and the Leafs capitalized with goals by Alex Meeker and Nicholas Wihak in the first.
“That shouldn’t happen, ever,” said Riders’ goalie Brandon Youngson. “We just need to believe in ourselves. We need to figure out that we are a force to be reckoned with and we need to go from there. We won’t be stopped if we figure we’re actually good.”
Momentum seemed to momentarily swing in Fernie’s favour in the second when the Riders were cycling the puck low in the offensive zone and Sincennes scored a working-class goal off a pass from Ryan Kennedy with help from Trevor Broad.
“I got a good pass out front from Kennedy and I just threw a bouncer on net that squeaked through,” said Sincennes. “It was a timely goal.”
“We do a pretty good job of finding each other usually,” said Kennedy. “I just got up behind the net and took a quick peek and saw he was out front. I just threw it out there hoping he would get his stick on it and sure enough he did.”
However, the Riders could not sustain the momentum and were defeated 5-3.
Cheveldave was out with a suspension and key injuries have thinned out Fernie’s blue line so right-winger Keelan Saworski played defence along with Riders affiliate Jake Beranek.
“As a young affiliate [he] played two excellent games for us,” said Mohr. “It was kind of like getting thrown into the fire.”
The evening was not without bright spots.
Fernie’s assistant coach James Ouimet had to leave the game midway through the third period to be with his wife during the birth to their first child: a boy.
The Riders are finishing off the regular season this week with a Friday night game at the Sparwood Arena against the Golden Rockets and a Sunday night game against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks back at Fernie Memorial Arena.