Sara MoultonFree Press Staff
The Ghostriders’ campaign to sweep the Golden Rockets from the playoffs race came to a halt Monday night, as the Rockets fought back to take their first victory in the division semifinals.
With wins in the first three games of the best-of-seven series, the Riders had the opportunity to eliminate the Rockets in Game 4 and become the first team in the league to advance to the second round of the playoffs. However, the Golden pucksters had different ideas, digging their skates in and capitalizing on several power plays for a 6-4 final result in their home barn.
An animated first period featured Fernie’s Cole Keebler being high-sticked in the face, drawing a penalty shot that was foiled by the post rather than Golden goalie Magnus Viberg. The Rockets went on to score two power play markers, including one with less than a second remaining before the buzzer, while Spencer Bender scored the lone goal of the first for the Riders.
The pattern continued in the second, with another two goals for Golden and one for Fernie, and the Rockets again taking advantage of the power play for one of the tallies. It was to be the Riders’ captain Dylan Robertson’s first of two goals for the night, helping to keep his squad within striking distance by scoring the first goal of the third period as well. Despite a strong push in the third and a last-minute tally by defenseman Zak Kuchler, the Riders were unable to take the lead from the desperate Rockets and suffered a final blow from an empty net goal in the final 20 seconds of the match.
Prior to Monday’s battle, the Riders defeated the Rockets 6-2 in Golden Friday night and 4-1 in Fernie Sunday night, adding to their 7-1 victory from Game 1 last Wednesday.
“The focus is what I’m impressed with … their heads are high, shoulders back, they’re feeling confident and, as a coach, it’s so far so good,” said head coach and general manager Craig Mohr after Sunday’s game.
While there have been individuals who have stood out throughout the series, Mohr believes that the team’s success is due to a truly combined effort rather than a reliance on star players.
“It’s been our strength all year. None of our guys were nominated for big league awards or anything, but that means we’ve got 23 guys on our roster who are all contributing to make the goodness happen.”
The two sides will meet again at the Fernie Memorial Arena for Game 5 Wednesday night, when the Riders will aim to finalize the series and earn a breather before the next round. As always, the puck will drop at 7:30 p.m.