Ghostriders head coach Jeff Wagner. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Ghostriders enter 2019 with playoff dream

Four months into the 2018/19 season, Ghostriders head coach Jeff Wagner is proud of the team he has come to know and looks forward to their successes in the new year.

For the new head coach it’s been a positive experience in Fernie so far.

The past four months have been spent adjusting to new coaching staff, many fresh faces and trying to implement a different play style compared to what has been taught in the past.

“We went through a stretch there where a lot of learning was happening and we saw mixed results,” said Wagner.

“Now we’ve gotten to a point where we’re comfortable with the way we want to play, it’s just a matter of executing.”

Wagner says he’s pleased with what the team has become.

Previously, the Ghostriders had played a slower, more physical game.

Now, they’re a blur of black and white as they focus on puck possession and speed.

Wagner said the Ghostriders’ old style worked in Fernie’s smaller ice rink, however, when the teamed travelled to Kimberley or Creston, which have full size NHL ice surfaces, they would be outplayed and left at a disadvantage.

“We really wanted to restructure the way we approached the game and I think we’ve done a pretty good job to this point in the season,” said Wagner.

Power forwards such as Brendan Nemes and Keelan Saworski still bring that element of physicality on the ice, however, it’s not the team’s only skillset.

Now, the power forwards complement the play style of the faster players such as Simon Bergsagel, Johnny Elias and Jordan Kromm.

Wagner says coming to the Ghostriders has been a great move for him, adding that he enjoys the challenge of moving from an assistant coach up to a head coach.

Heading into the new year, he and the other coaching staff are very optimistic.

“We’ve had a fairly successful first half,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of one-goal games or two-goal games, pretty tight contested games that could go one way or another.

“Our goal is to figure out a way to win those games, more often then not.”

Wagner added that if the Ghostriders can meet this goal, it will make them a strong contender for playoffs.

Right now, Wagner is focused on his short-term goal of pushing Columbia Valley to the second place spot in the Eddie Mountain Division.

If Fernie can do this, they will win home ice advantage in the first round. Currently Columbia Valley is sitting seven points ahead of Fernie.

With four games left against Columbia Valley in the regular season, Wagner’s hope for the Ghostriders could become a reality if they win at least three of the four games.

The Ghostriders’ first game of 2019 will take place at home against the Kimberley Dynamiters on January 4.

The next night, they will face their arch rivals in Kimberley before returning to Fernie Memorial Arena on January 11 and 12 for games against Creston and Castlegar.

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