Sara MoultonFree Press Staff
The Fernie Ghostriders fought back from last week’s three game losing streak, earning two big wins ahead of the rapidly approaching playoffs.
As the top team in the league’s Eddie Mountain division, the Riders’ loss to the bottom-ranked Columbia Valley Rockies on Tuesday, Jan. 13 was a painful wake-up call for the Fernie squad.
“I think that was the one that really sunk it in that they weren’t working hard enough … they had their eyes opened up and had a little humility thrown down their throats after losing three in a row,” explained head coach and general manager, Craig Mohr.
Until that point, the Ghostriders had not dropped back to back games, keeping themselves ranked as one of the top two teams in the league. Mohr gave credit to team captain Dylan Robertson and the rest of the leadership group for taking charge and spearheading the turnaround.
“That’s what good leaders do; they recognize when things aren’t going great and they took the bull by the horns. They held a meeting on Wednesday, then came out and practiced hard.”
The extra effort certainly showed on Friday night, when the Fernie boys delivered an 8-2 thumping to their hosts in Creston. Joel Burgess led the charge with a hat trick for the Riders, complemented with two goals apiece from Aaron Neufeld and Evan Reid plus a final nail courtesy of Doan Smith.
The momentum from the road win carried over to the following night at the Fernie Memorial Arena, with the Nelson Leafs visiting for the first and only time this season. While the Leafs were the first to tally in the opening minutes of the game, the Riders soon found their groove and began relentlessly firing upon Nelson goalie Adam Maida. Burgess, Smith and Neufeld again made their mark on the scoreboard with a goal each, in addition to contributions by Derek Georgopolous and Tayler Sincennes for a 5-1 final result.
Defenceman Kyle Haugo also made his presence known by delivering some impressive checks, including one that toppled a cup pyramid that had been carefully constructed on the other side of the glass. Mohr expressed the club’s appreciation for the 16-year-old from Elkford, who has found his feet this season as the youngest skater on the team.
“He’s not small, and he’s figuring out that when he uses his body he’s having a lot of success,” said Mohr after Saturday’s game.
“It’s great when you see the young kids as they start to get that confidence; they lose those first-year rookie nerves and they realize to themselves that they can play well in this league … he’s so well-liked and he’s such a good guy in the dressing room.”
For the man himself, Haugo was able to sum up his motivation quite succinctly.
“It feels good when I hit,” he said, with a shrug and a smile.
Alternate captain Neufeld was more forthcoming with his insight into the team’s recent performance and the 10 remaining tilts in the regular season.
“It was our worst part of the season, but we’re a good hockey club and we knew we were going to get out of it,” said Neufeld, regarding the three losses.
“We still want to finish first in the league against (current league leaders) Osoyoos, so we’re just looking forward game by game … we’ve got a lot of games on the road coming up so we’ve got to be focused on that before we focus on playoffs.”
Fernie will host the Golden Rockets this Friday night before hitting the road until Feb. 13. With only three home games remaining in the regular season, don’t miss your chance to cheer on your Fernie Ghostriders as they strive for the top spot.