By Matt Laurin
The Fernie Ghostriders clinched the Eddie Mountain division for the third consecutive year, after beating Columbia Valley in back to back games this weekend.
The Riders wrapped up the regular season with an impressive 35 – 12 – 0 – 5 record, and will now prepare for a first round series against the Golden Rockets (21 – 25 – 1 – 5) starting Friday night in Fernie.
While the Ghostriders owned the season series, beating the Rockets in all eight games, Riders defenseman Zach Traverse says they can’t take the division rivals lightly.
“We have to have a good week of practice, and prepare the same way we always do. They showed us they can play some really good hockey and have taken us to overtime a few times.”
“They’ve got something to prove, and you can’t take anyone for granted in this league, especially once the playoffs start.”
The two teams last met in early February, with the Riders skating away with two close victories. They beat Golden 2 – 1 in overtime, before shutting out the Rockets 3 – 0 in a tight checking road game.
Across the valley, the Kimberley Dynamiters will have their hands full when they host the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the other first round divisional series.
Creston successfully ended the Nitros bid for the division title when they beat Kimberley 7 – 5 on Saturday night.
Had the Dynamiters won, it would have set up a one game showdown on Sunday, but instead the Riders were able to rest some starters as they prepare for a long playoff run.
Despite the game having little meaning beyond bragging rights, the bitter rivals put on another good show on Sunday night in Fernie.
Kimberley scored five unanswered goals in the final period to beat the Riders 7 – 2, although the game was much closer than the final score indicated.
Alex Milhouse had just tied things on an early third period powerplay, before the Nitros lit the lamp three times in as many minutes to put things out of reach.
Playoff hockey resumes in Fernie this weekend, with the Ghostriders hosting the Rockets on Friday and Saturday night. They will then travel to Golden for games on Monday and Tuesday. As always, puck drops at 7:30 p.m.