The Fernie Minor Hockey Association hosted the 2017 PeeWee Tier 4 B.C. Hockey Championships from March 19 to 23, but were knocked out of the tournament on day four of five by the undefeated North Okanagan Knights.
The Fernie Jr. Ghostriders finished the regular season in third, and did not qualify for provincials. However, they were allowed to participate because they were the hosts. In the East Kootenay, Kimberley qualified at the top, prior to entering the provincials.
During their first game, Fernie played Langley and lost 5-3. In game two, Fernie played Prince Rupert and tied and in their third game they faced off against Chetwynd Tuesday morning, and won 11-3. In game four, they played Kimberley and lost 4-0. During their last game of the provincials, the Jr. Ghostriders put up a good fight against the Knights, but lost 9-6.
Head Coach of the Jr. Riders, Bill Johnson, reflected later that they were nervous going into their first game, and didn’t pursue the puck as hard as they could have.
During the first period of Fernie’s game against the North Okanagan, the Knights scored four goals. After three goals, Fernie stepped up and put away one with three minutes left, but the Knights retaliated and sunk another with under a minute to play.
Going into the second period, it was a back-and-forth battle after North Okanagan scored twice in the first two minutes. The Jr. Riders came back and scored their second goal just under five minutes in, and the Knights returned to score, four minutes later. Three minutes after this, Fernie scored their second, and three minutes after this, the Knights powered their way to score their eighth of the game.
The third period was in the control of some passionate Jr. Ghostriders, who battled their way to score three more, after the Knights led the period with one.
Johnson has been coaching for eight years, and is proud of the boys this year for putting up a fight against the undefeated Knights.
“It’s been an interesting year,” he said. “We formed our rep team late, to make a run at the provincials and we’re still learning every day.”
Johnson believes the Jr. Ghostriders possessed two great attributes this year. The first, was that the kids were very coachable. Prior to the provincials, the Riders never had a single game during the regular season with the roster of kids they had. Despite this, they learned and adapted.
“Number two, they’re just a proud bunch of kids,” said Johnson. “They play hard, they don’t give up. We were down by three goals that whole game, and we played hard the whole way.”
Jr. Ghostriders captain, Bennett Arling, was chosen as captain by the kids. Johnson believes he showed leadership throughout the tournament and especially in the game against the Knights, when he powered down the ice on a breakaway and put away Fernie’s second goal, five minutes into the second period.
“I think we played our hardest,” said Arling. “They’re giant, and we have all these little guys. But we won most of the battles, we fought through it. It was awesome.”
The Knights continued their winning streak when they faced off against the Prince Rupert Seawolves in the B.C. Tier 4 championship final, and took first with a stunning 7-2 victory. Gloves flew as the Knights raced down the ice to hug their goalie, celebrating their new title as best in the province.
The Knights previously lost to Fernie in the provincial finals last year.
“A lot of our boys had that goal in mind from day one, they wanted a little bit of redemption,” said head coach of the North Okanagan Knights, Matt Buchanan. “I think we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish coming here.”
The Knights finished the regular season with an impressive 43-3-2 record, and powered through provincials undefeated.
The Seawolves observed from a distance as the Knights received their gold medals, but received many comforting words and pats on the back from their supportive coaches.
The Fair Play award is given to the team with the best attitude on and off the ice, not excluding the actions of the parents. This is rated by officials, other teams, other parents, restaurant staff and hotel administration. This year, the Prince Rupert Seawolves received this recognition.