A convincing, high-intensity home win for the Fernie Ghostriders has set the pace for this week’s playoff series, starting Tuesday against the same team.
The Riders’ 5-0 win against the Rockies at Fernie Memorial Arena on Friday was followed by a 5-5 tie on the road, a sign that the first round of playoffs may not be easily won.
Head Coach Jeff Wagner said Friday that he was extremely happy with the players’ efforts on the ice.
“I really liked our execution tonight, I thought we stuck to our game plan throughout the night,” he said.
“We talked a lot about giving a 60-minute performance tonight and I thought we did that.”
In the past, the Ghostriders have struggled with a slow first period, which has put them in hot water against other teams. Wagner explained that they addressed this issue and showed on Friday that they could overcome it.
“We’ve been coming out flat in the first period quite often lately, so our start was big, we were the first ones to score a goal. It was just clockwork for us from there,” said Wagner.
Kyle Ford was the first to put away a goal, 10 minutes into the first period. This was followed by goals in the second from Jordon Kromm and Greg Susinski, plus one each in the third by Josh Dalquist and Brendan Nemes.
Dalquist’s goal was met with great celebration as Friday was also his birthday.
From the bench, Wagner watched his team take control of the game and handle any offensive pressure from the Rockies. After any shutout game, Wagner said you can’t forget the last line of defense. Justin Faiella was Fernie’s starting goaltender and stopped 22 shots.
This game saw close to 70 minutes in penalties between both teams, the majority of which came in the third period. Sebastian Iannuzzi was forced to leave the game in the second period after a cross-check to the head from the opposing team.
According to Wagner, the hit broke his helmet and left him with a gash on his head, and a suspected concussion.
“I think you saw some nastiness in that game for sure, it got elevated midway through the second period there. I liked our team’s response, I thought we backed each other up, but we didn’t necessarily cross any lines that put us in the danger zone if you will, for penalties and stuff like that,” he said.
Following this scrum, Wagner said it was great to see the players channel their focus on winning the game and hurting the other team on the scoreboard, instead of on the ice.
For some senior players, Friday was their last regular season game at home.
“It was a nice way to finish some of our guys’ regular season careers here in the Memorial,” said Wagner. “We talked about putting a good effort forward for our 20-year-olds, and I thought we did that for them tonight.”
The following night was a 5-5 tie against the Rockies away from home, which secured their place in the first round of playoffs. Wagner attributed Saturday’s tie to several lulls in their performance throughout the match.
“It just seemed like our focus wasn’t entirely on the game, there were times when we were taking 10 minute misconducts, talking too much to the referees and when we do that stuff, we kind of get away from our game,” he said.
Wagner was confident going into Tuesday’s playoff opener.
“We’ve had a lot of success against Columbia Valley this year, we’ve also played a couple of close games against them, so we’re excited to get going and confident in our play, and we’re hoping for a good result,” he said.
Tuesday, February 26: Game 1: Fernie vs. Columbia Valley @ Fernie Memorial Arena
Wednesday, February 27: Game 2: Fernie vs. Columbia Valley @ Fernie Memorial Arena
Friday, March 1: Game 3: Fernie vs. Columbia Valley @ Invermere – Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena
Saturday, March 2: Game 4: Fernie vs. Columbia Valley @ Invermere – Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena
March 4: Fernie Ghostriders @ Fernie Memorial Arena
March 5: Fernie Ghostriders @ away from home
March 6: Fernie Ghostriders @ Fernie Memorial Arena
See Kijhl.ca for the latest schedule information.