KIJHL: Back to the future as Fernie honours former champs

Three generations of Ghostriders celebrated the club's ongoing success last weekend, with a reunion of the 1999-00 Borne Cup champions.

By Sara MoultonFree Press Staff

The year might be 2015, but there were no hoverboards in sight when the Fernie Ghostriders had their very own Back to the Future moment with past, present and future players on the surface of the Fernie Memorial Arena last Saturday.

A reunion of the Borne Cup champion team from the 1999-00 season brought three generations of skaters together in a pre-game ceremony before the tilt against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats. The former stars joined the current Riders’ starting lineup at centre ice, along with a group of the club’s fledgling members, known as the Timbits.

“We are always so proud of our alumni, especially as they continue to fly the Ghostriders colours,” enthused club president, Barb Anderson.

“It shows such great character of our past players, and bringing the past, present and future players together shows the wealth of hockey in Fernie.”

The former Ghostriders, now in their mid-30s, won the championship in 2000 when the club was a member of the America West Hockey League, which later merged with the prestigious North America Hockey League. The Ghostriders moved to the junior ‘B’ Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) in 2004, but have continued to operate and perform at the same intensity as their original junior ‘A’ roots.

With a ceremonial puck drop to finalize the celebrations, the night was brought back into the present as the Riders sought to topple their divisional opponents. The home side came out swinging with an unassisted goal by Joel Burgess early in the piece, which the Thunder Cats quickly countered with a tally of their own. With just 31 seconds left in the first period, Spencer Bender burst out and struck the puck into the net in what would be his first of two for the night.

A fruitless second period saw no change to the scoreboard, but did result in Tayler Sincennes being booted to the dressing room for fighting. The emerging tough-guy now has three fights on the books in his rookie season, leaving him slapped with a one game suspension mere weeks before playoffs.

It all bubbled over in the final period, with a second goal by Bender being quickly answered by three in a row by the Creston squad. As the clock ran down and the game came to a 4-3 end in favour of the visitors, the Riders were forced to swallow their second loss at home in as many nights.

The previous battle on Friday night featured the Ghostriders’ arch rivals, the Kimberley Dynamiters, who were back in town for the final time in the 2014-15 regular season. Almost 800 fans packed into Fernie’s barn to witness the high-paced spectacle, only for the Nitros to run away with the game in the second period and shore up a two-goal lead from which the Riders couldn’t recover. The 5-3 final result marked Fernie’s first defeat in regulation time at home this season.

“We had a nice reality check this weekend, and I think we were outworked in both games,” reflected head coach and general manager, Craig Mohr.

“It showed that it doesn’t matter how much talent you have; if you don’t put the work in, you’ll get beaten.”

Mohr went on to point out the team’s impressive record so far this season and remained upbeat about their upcoming games.

“Our history has been that the players get pretty hungry after a loss; they really don’t like losing and I think they’ll bounce right back.”

The Riders will travel to Invermere on Tuesday and to Creston on Friday for two more division games, before hosting the Nelson Leafs for the first time this season on Saturday.