Jeff Orser salutes as the Fernie Ghostriders complete a gruelling campaign of five games in seven days.

Jeff Orser salutes as the Fernie Ghostriders complete a gruelling campaign of five games in seven days.

KIJHL: Riders win four of five division duals

The Fernie Ghostriders galloped back with a vengeance from their holiday break, winning four of five demanding games in seven days.

Sara MoultonFree Press Staff

The Fernie Ghostriders galloped back with a vengeance from their short holiday break, winning four of five demanding divisional games in seven days.

The week-long campaign began in Kimberley on Dec. 28, with the Riders seeking to redeem themselves after a 4-2 loss to the Nitros before the break. Over 700 spectators filled the stands to watch the rival squads burn off their Christmas turkey, and were treated to explosive scoring bursts including three consecutive tallies for Ghostrider Doan Smith. Fernie looked set to take a comfortable win until halfway through the final period, when the Dynamiters came back to earn three goals just minutes apart and place themselves back in the game. However, despite the late push by their hosts, an empty net goal by Evan Reid during the final seconds still sealed a 6-4 victory for the Riders to kick off their return.

There was little time to celebrate the win before the Dynamiters arrived in Fernie the following night for perhaps the league’s most anticipated game of the year. The two teams battled it out in front of a roaring 1140-strong crowd, dodging scoring opportunities and live roosters in a tight and entertaining tilt. Derek Georgopoulos and Justin Peers racked up a goal each during the first two periods, leaving the Nitros to work extra hard in the third to stay in the running. Braden Saretsky had only just delivered the lone marker of the night for his side when teammate Jared Marchi hit the boards and didn’t get up. A tense few moments passed while various staff worked on the injured Dynamiter, before finally transferring him to a waiting ambulance and onwards to hospital. With both sides shaken by the incident, the final five minutes passed without further incident or scoring for a 2-1 result in favour of Fernie.

After a much-deserved night off, the Riders again hit the road on New Year’s Eve to meet the Thunder Cats in Creston. Despite registering four goals, including one by 16-year-old affiliate Mitch Titus, the Riders were unable to hold back their hosts and returned home on the wrong side of a 7-4 final score.

Opportunity for redemption came soon enough when Creston travelled to Fernie on Jan. 2, promising an intense grudge match between the two sides. An equalizing goal by Smith with just 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime, at which point Cavin Tilsley swooped in to nail a 4-3 win for the Riders.

With injury and fatigue taking their toll and six regulars out of the lineup, the Fernie squad dressed one last time to host Golden in their fifth and final game of the week. In addition to Titus, local affiliate players Trevor Broad and Jacen Richards were utilized to successfully fill the gap as the Riders peppered 51 shots at the net and finished the campaign with a 5-0 shutout for Ghostrider goalie Jeff Orser.

“It was a big five games this week and to get four wins is huge … we really rallied together as a unit and shut them down for the whole 60,” said Orser following the final tilt.

“Coming off this will be a high … guys were getting tired and slowing down, but the break came at a good time and we all came back ready.”

Ghostriders head coach and general manager Craig Mohr also reflected on the hectic week, adding “Emotionally and physically, they were tough games … but our motto has been all year that we don’t lose two in a row. And we haven’t.

“I think [the three affiliate players] gave our guys some energy tonight … their youth and enthusiasm and happiness rubbed off.”

The Riders will play two more home games this weekend, hosting Kimberley on Friday and Creston on Saturday. As always, they’ll be on the ice from 7:30 p.m. at the Fernie Memorial Arena.