The Ghostriders rounded out their first month of the regular season with an overtime loss in Golden and a resounding win at home last weekend.
An exciting back-and-forth road game against the Golden Rockets on Friday resulted in a 6-all tie at the end of regulation, pushing the bout into overtime. The game-winning goal was eventually scored in the second overtime period when Golden’s 16-year-old Alex Astasiewicz bounced a fluke shot off the skate of a teammate. Josh McCulloch and Joel Burgess each contributed two goals for the Riders, with Travis Thomsen and Cole Keebler adding two more for an even six. McCulloch, Thomsen and Keebler also earned points for assists, along with Aaron Neufeld, Randy Teeple, Derek Georgopolous and newcomer Evan Reid.
Back in Fernie, the Riders hosted the Summerland Steam on Saturday in front of a 450-strong crowd in a much-anticipated second meeting between the two teams. The Steam set the tone early, with a power play goal just two minutes into the game, but McCulloch (assisted by Sam Plaquin) returned the favour less than a minute later in what would be his first of three goals for the night.
The Ghostriders stole the show during the second period with three unanswered goals, courtesy of Georgopolous (assisted by Burgess and Ghostrider goalie Jeff Orser) and McCulloch, who scored two in quick succession with assists from Thomsen, Neufeld and Plaquin. Thomsen (assisted by Zak Kuchler) sealed the win by adding one more to the Riders’ side of the scoreboard in the final minutes for a solid 5-3 victory.
With a total of 10 goals and three assists in just eight games, McCulloch is sitting comfortably at the top of the Ghostriders’ point’s board. The 18-year-old rookie from Calgary has been instrumental in the team’s success so far this year and has been settling in to his first junior hockey season.
“I think I’m just building confidence; playing (on the same line) with two 20 year olds (Plaquin and Neufeld) really helps out. They’ve been really supportive and are showing me the way in junior,” explained McCulloch. “It’s a really big thing that Fernie has a good fan base… it definitely gives me a buzz, and I love to show off my skills!”
Head coach and general manager Craig Mohr also gave credit to the veteran players, who have given guidance to their younger teammates and introduced them to a new level in their hockey careers
“I think that’s one of our strengths right now… I think it’s just one of those groups that has some good chemistry early on,” he said adding, “but you’ve got to credit the guys who have returned from last year. They’ve done a very good job at welcoming all the new guys who have come in this season.”
Mohr went on to say, “They’re a good group of men, and when you get a good group of men together, good things happen.“
The Ghostriders will host the Grand Forks Border Bruins this Friday and the Kelowna Chiefs on Saturday in a not-to-be-missed double-header weekend in Fernie. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. on both nights at the Fernie Memorial Arena.