The home opener of the Fernie Ghostriders this past Saturday was nothing short of memorable.
Fifteen minutes before the game started the stands were full, the show sold out, in anticipation of seeing the home team step back onto home ice for the first time since the tragic incident at Fernie Memorial Arena, last October.
The lights were dimmed as the Ghostriders skated onto the ice, one by one, introduced to their home crowd. Just before Mayor Mary Giuliano dropped the ceremonial puck, a moment of silence was held in honour of Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and Jason Podloski.
Above: Ghostriders line up as they are introduced to the home crowd. Below: Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano drops the ceremonial puck to start the Ghostriders home opener. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press
Local athlete and Ghostriders rookie, Nikolas Sombrowski, was first to put one on the scoreboard, scoring against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats with 5:07 left in the first period. He was assisted by Kyle Ford and Cole Gibson.
Creston returned with a goal shortly after the start of the second period, but the Fernie Ghostriders answered with a power play goal by Brendan Nemes, one minute later. He was assisted by Ghostriders captain Keelan Saworski and Greg Susinski.
Saworski worked with Sawan Gill and Greg Susinski to net another on a power play with five minutes left in the second.
Riders’ Jordan Kromm set the pace of the third period, scoring just over two minutes in. Creston replied with two back to back goals in the middle of the period, but with seven minutes left in the game, Riders’ Kyle Ford scored to give the home team a comfortable two-goal lead which they held until the end of the game.
The atmosphere was electric, and 1140 people were on their feet as the clock ticked its final seconds and the Ghostriders cleared the bench to swarm goalie Zac Larson in celebration of their big win.
Ghostriders swarm goalie Zac Larson in celebration of their big win. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press
“It was a super exciting game obviously, the crowd was absolutely bonkers, and we fed off their energy tonight in a very positive way,” said Ghostriders head coach Jeff Wagner.
Wagner says the energy in the locker room before and after the game was also very positive.
“We talked about how the emotions would probably run high tonight, and sometimes when that happens you kind of get ahead of yourself, you try and do too much,” he said.
“We had a really good chat about how to channel those emotions and put it into a positive energy for us, and I thought we did that really well tonight.”
Assistant coach Justin Peers, who played for the Fernie Ghostriders for three seasons, likened the energy of this game to that of a home game against the Kimberley Dynamiters.
“The fans were electric and I think the players fed off of that a ton,” he said. “It was pretty cool to see especially for the first (home) game of the season.”
Sombrowski grew up playing in Fernie Memorial Arena and said it was great to not only be playing for his home team, but to also score the first goal of the season at home.
“It was pretty awesome tonight, being out here with the crowd, the barn full,” he said. “I used to come to these games, so it’s pretty special playing in them.”
Sombrowski said he hopes to develop as a player throughout his time with the Ghostriders, and eventually progress to Junior A and pursue a scholarship to play in the United States.
The Ghostriders are away this coming weekend, but return for two home games in a row on September 28 and 29.