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Riders take three-point weekend against division leaders

Ghostriders maintain fifth place after one win, one loss
Johnny Elias takes a big hit from Nelson’s Michael Lenoury. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Fernie’s game against Kimberley was almost everything you could ask for in a hockey game; skilled plays, big hits, league rivalry and overtime periods.

Although the home team couldn’t clinch the win, they still walked away with one point.

A 2-1 loss against their division rivals in a double overtime is a sure sign that the playoffs will be hard-fought and closely matched.

There was no scoring in the first period but Fernie forward Simon Bergsagel was the first to flip the score, just over a minute into the second period.

With 12:37 left in the third, the Dynamiters were able to pocket a shot past Ghostriders goaltender Riley Fonger to tie the game.

There was no scoring in the first overtime, which sent the game into a second overtime.

With 1:53 left on the clock, Kimberley’s Spencer Kennedy found the back of the net to give the away team the win.

The game against the Dynamiters was once again a sellout, attracting 1140 people to the rink. Despite losing, the Ghostriders’ salute to the crowd was met with a standing ovation.

Overall, coach Jeff Wagner was happy with their efforts and said that this season so far has shown him that Kimberley and Fernie match up very well.

That being said, Wagner admitted Kimberley gets the upper hand against Fernie, the majority of the time. However, this doesn’t diminish the Ghostriders’ confidence.

The coach spoke of how strong Kimberley’s defense is this year, but also pointed out that their goalie, Adam Anderson, has been making some big saves.

Scoring just one or two goals in a game leaves room for error, which can dramatically shift the game in an instant, explained Wagner. This, he added, makes winning more difficult.

The next time the Ghostriders meet the Dynamiters on the ice will be in the second round of playoffs.

“If and when we get there, it will be a matter of figuring out how to get a couple extra pucks by this goalie,” said Wagner.

Saturday was another test for the home team as they prepared for battle with the Nelson Leafs. The Leafs are currently leading the Murdoch division above Beaver Valley and Grand Forks.

“We’ve had games in this rink before where it’s been a playoff atmosphere and then the next night we come in, and we come out flat. This is going to be a good test for us,” said Wagner on Friday.

“Especially moving forward to playoffs, every game is a playoff atmosphere and it’s not like you can take a night off, and afford to come out flat the next night.”

On Saturday, the Ghostriders were anything but flat, taking a 5-3 win against the Leafs, who are sitting in fourth place in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

The Riders were able to overcome a shaky first five minutes and followed up with a dominating force, which allowed them to dictate the pace for the remainder of the game.

Nelson and Fernie each scored one in the first period and one each again in the second until the final three seconds in the second period when Nelson was able to sneak the puck around the back of the net, and find a player wide open in the slot who made it 3-2 for Nelson going into the third.

The home team has recent-trade Tyler Witzkie to thank for the win after he put away two goals in the third period and earned himself home star of the game.

Fernie’s Jordon Kromm was able to fire one into an empty net with 16 seconds left in the game to reinforce their victory.

Wagner commented on how lucky they are to have the ex-Creston captain fighting for them on their forward line. However, he added that it’s his defensive play that stands out for them as a team.

“We put him out against a team’s top line, for the most part,” said Wagner.

“He made a play actually with about 45 seconds left in the game. He had his stick slashed in half and it didn’t get called.

“He had to finish the rest of the game without a stick but he ended up blocking a shot, the puck ended up landing at his feet, he didn’t have a stick, so he just kicked the puck out of the zone. (We) switched pretty quickly, got a fresh set of bodies out there after he did that.

“So little things like that where he puts in the extra effort, seem to help us out and be the difference maker.”

Overall, Wagner said that Kimberley and Nelson, both division leaders, were very similar teams with similar skill sets.

He said the key difference with the Nelson game was that Fernie was able to break down the opposing team’s transitions and sneak back in to secure some points.

“I thought we were a little bit better offensively obviously than we were against Kimberley, where we only scored the one goal,” he said.

The Ghostriders are back at home this Friday, February 1 against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

Despite losing to the Kimberley Dynamiters Friday, the home team received a standing ovation from Fernie fans. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Phil McLachlan

About the Author: Phil McLachlan

Phil McLachlan is the editor at the Penticton Western News. He served as the reporter, and eventually editor of The Free Press newspaper in Fernie.
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