With the sound of the final buzzer and the roar of rival fans, the Fernie Ghostriders’ playoff run came to an abrupt end in Kimberley Monday night.
The Riders had spent the previous week battling to stay in the race for the championship, reaching Game 6 in the best-of-seven Eddie Mountain Division final against the Kimberley Dynamiters. A famously intense rivalry between the two clubs promised a tight series and drew sell-out crowds to the Fernie and Kimberley Arenas.
“Kudos to [the Dynamiters]. They play hard. Real hard. They had some guys play a fantastic series … I’m sure they had guys playing black and blue through it and you have to give them credit,” said Ghostriders head coach and general manager Craig Mohr.
After taking care of their respective first round opponents with relative ease, both the Ghostriders and the Dynamiters knew that the second round in the Eddie Mountain Division playoffs would be a much more difficult affair. The Nitros kicked off to a strong start in Game 1 on March 1, taking a 5-2 win in Fernie to negate the Riders’ home ice advantage. However, the Ghostriders fought back to claim victories in the next two battles, including a 7-4 thrashing in Kimberley’s own barn. Boosted by the return of goaltender Tyson Brouwer, the Nitros worked hard to win the remaining three games and take the series with a 4-2 record.
The end of the 2014-15 season also spells the finale of the junior hockey careers of the five 20-year-old Ghostriders, including team captain Dylan Robertson.
“There’s a lot of emotions going through right now. Being with Fernie the last six years has been quite the ride and now it’s all come to a halt really quick. It’s pretty emotional,” said Robertson after emerging from the dressing room Monday night.
“Hats off to the Dynamiters. They deserved it. They outworked us most of the games and it’s a well-deserved victory for them.”
Joel Burgess, Aaron Neufeld, Derek Georgopoulos and Sam Plaquin join Robertson in graduating from junior hockey this season, but not without making their mark as the most senior players on the squad.
“As a new coach coming in, I knew a couple of them from before. From day one, they bought in to what I was trying to preach, trying to get through to them,” Mohr said. “My life was made easy by those 20-year-olds.”
“In the dressing room, in the community — they were absolutely fantastic.”
Mohr himself had his achievements recognized during the post-season, being named Coach of the Year for the Eddie Mountain Division on Feb. 25. In accepting the accolade, Mohr credited all of the staff, volunteers and players in the Ghostriders organization for the club’s success in 2014-15.
Ghostriders’ netminder Jeff Orser also received special praise on Feb. 25 when he was awarded Top Goaltender for the Eddie Mountain Division. The 19-year-old from Calgary was a star for the Riders this year, winning 24 of 34 starts and leading his team to clinch the regular season division title as well as second overall in the league.
“It’s huge — at the start of this year, I wanted to be high up in the stats, but also to help my team win. It’s definitely nice to be congratulated for it,” said Orser of the award.
The Dynamiters will now play the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the conference final, beginning in Fruitvale Wednesday, March 11. Back in Fernie, the Ghostriders will spend the upcoming days celebrating their achievements at their awards banquet and preparing to return to their hometowns for the summer. See next week’s Free Press for full details of the club award recipients for 2014-15.
Craig Mohr and Jeff Orser both received awards from Phil Iddon, vice-president of the KIJHL Eddie Mountain Division on Feb. 25, recognizing the men as the division’s Coach of the Year and Top Goaltender, respectively. Photos: Sara Moulton