The Ghostriders won twice in overtime this weekend, improving their winning streak to four games.
Fernie remains unbeaten in the month of November, while improving their record to 16 – 4 – 1 overall.
On a rare weekend at home, the Riders needed extra time on both Thursday and Saturday, but emerged with four points after beating the Nelson Leafs 3 – 2, and then Creston Valley 5 – 4.
Sitting atop the Eddie Mountain Division, they now lead Kimberley by six points, having played twice more than the rival Dynamiters.
The Nelson Leafs made their first and only appearance in the Elk Valley on Thursday night, and despite getting badly outplayed, it was former Ghostrider Andrew Walton who stole the show.
The 20-year-old Castlegar native was outstanding between the pipes for the visiting Leafs, turning away 31 shots in regulation, as well as six more in overtime to earn his team a single point.
In a game where the final score flattered the visitors, Walton made save after save against his former squad, while allowing his teammates to claw back into things.
Brendon Magnone opened up the scoring 14 minutes into the first period, tapping in a beautiful backdoor pass from Alex Milhouse.
Three minutes later, with the Leafs shorthanded on a boarding penalty, Austin Evans cleaned up a Marty Wicks point shot to give the Riders a two goal lead at the end of one.
After being outshot 12 – 3 in the first, the Leafs tightened things up and were able to create some scoring chances of their own.
Despite a dismal five on three man advantage in the opening minutes of the second, the Leafs powerplay finally converted late in the period to get the visitors within one.
The Ghostriders chose not to sit back and protect their lead in the third, but once again it was the spectacular play of Walton leaving Riders forwards shaking heads and banging their sticks in frustration.
To Nelson’s credit, they kept coming and with just under six minutes remaining, Max Moi tied things on a one timer from the left slot.
Overtime saw the Riders continue to control the play, and they were finally rewarded when Zack Traverse buried a slapshot with two minutes remaining in the second extra period.
On Saturday, Fernie welcomed Creston Valley to town, in another physical affair in the Eddie Mountain division.
Playing each other for the second time in a week, there was no love lost between the division rivals.
From the drop of the puck, the animosity between the two sides was tangible.
Both teams played hockey in the first, although there was rarely a whistle that didn’t end in a scrum full of face washing and kind words.
Fernie opened the scoring halfway through the opening frame, on a nice set up from Stefan Seel.
Skating down the left side on an odd man rush, the big forward made a great pass to R.T. Rice, who buried the one timer on the low glove side.
Two minutes later, Connor McLaughlin forced a shorthanded turnover at the Thunder Cat blue line and streaked in on a breakaway, before finishing a beautiful deke blocker side.
Creston answered right back, scoring two even strength goals in less than a minute, to tie things before the end of the period.
Tensions finally boiled over in the second, and hockey briefly took the back seat to Saturday night boxing.
Marty Wicks had just restored the Ghostriders lead on a late powerplay, when the gloves finally came off.
Three consecutive fights resulted in referee Madsen warning both benches, before later ejecting both head coaches in the third.
Creston converted on a powerplay midway through the final period, to force overtime for the second time in as many games.
Thanks to a late boarding penalty, the Ghostriders entered the overtime period with a four on three man advantage.
Gaining the zone early, Marty Wicks again showed good patience before finding a shooting lane and firing a wrist shot through traffic for the game winning goal.
The defenseman discussed the chippy affair, and his young teammates answering the bell.
“It felt real good to beat Creston in overtime, especially after that sort of game, it being so chippy and all.”
“Oh yeah, it got our team going for sure. It was nice to see, it was a lot of young guys that went. It was good to see them step up.”
The Ghostriders are home again on Friday, when they host the North Okanagan Knights. Puck drops at the Fernie Memorial Arena at 7:30 p.m.
By Matt Laurin
Former Ghostrider Andrew Walton making one of his 37 saves.