This year’s Fernie Ghostriders will be a vastly different team from last season’s fun to watch 42-5-0-3 squad. A little size and grittiness was missing in the Rider’s playoff run last March but that won’t be a problem this year as the new Riders, although younger, are a much larger and more unsavoury crew who, unlike last season, will be annoyingly hard to play against.
The Ghostriders started the year without three high end players. Alex Milhouse is day to day with a training camp injury and promising former Calgary Canuck forward Ben Primeau is out for six weeks with a cut on his arm from the game in Beaver Valley. Meanwhile Evan Burgess is working as a hunting guide and will not play until November. Burgess is a big, tough, look after his player’s mobile defenseman who will be playing in his fourth year when he returns.
Two 20-year-olds will captain the Riders this season. Defenseman Ty Morton will be wearing the captain’s “C” and Connor McLaughlin will be wearing an “A”. Both players were acquired from the rival Nelson Leafs over the last two years.
The Riders are allowed two 16-year-old players but elected not to sign any this season. From here it looks like Fernie won’t have the scoring touch they had last year (265 goals with a 5.30 goals a game average) so they decided not to sign a 16 unless he was going to play on one of the first two lines and score regularly. Oddly enough Coach Verner’s “we’re going younger” mantra made it harder for the youngest to find a spot on the roster.
Without the top two KIJHL scorers, Scott Morisseau and Thomas Abenante, in the line-up the Ghostriders will have to score by committee this season. Alex Pronchuk was the best player on the ice last Tuesday against the Nitros and he may end up actually “chairing” the committee. The players already mentioned will have to come up big but the 17 and 18 year olds who make up half of the team and the goaltending will have to chip in as well. The Riders also need a breakout year from speedy Josh McSkimming who had a hat-trick against the Nitros. He has always been one of the premier skaters in the league, but so far it hasn’t translated into points.