The Ghostriders remain undefeated at home this season with an exciting 4-3 overtime victory against Castlegar followed by a 6-1 lancing of the Knights during another double-header weekend at the Fernie Memorial Arena.
Friday night’s showdown against the Rebels was the first time the Fernie squad has faced former Ghostrider goaltender Austin Wells, who was traded to Castlegar during the pre-season. Despite peppering their former teammate with over 40 shots on goal, Wells stopped all but three to send the game into overtime.
Goals for Fernie were split evenly between the lines, with Josh McCulloch (assisted by Aaron Neufeld), Travis Thomsen (assisted by Cole Keebler) and Joel Burgess (assisted by Cavin Tilsley and Derek Georgopoulos) all contributing to the home side of the scoreboard. However, as the Rebels scored two in quick succession during the final minutes of regulation, the game was tied up at the final buzzer. As the two sides battled through overtime, it was veteran Spencer Bender (assisted by Matt Pronchuk and Keebler) who came through with the winning goal for Fernie.
“We knew Wells was going to come out hard … I think we just outlasted them in the end,” said Bender after the game.
“Everyone on our team is now finding their groove and it’s good to see,” he added.
On Saturday, Fernie hosted the North Okanagan Knights in what turned out to be an extremely drawn-out match with a sheet full of penalties for both sides. A hat trick for Keebler was complemented by goals from McCulloch, Georgopoulous and Sam Plaquin, who also racked up three assists throughout the night. Aaron Neufeld contributed with assists on three of the six goals, and Kale Johnston recorded an assist in his first week back after a month-long recovery from an injury.
The Knights’ increasing belligerence following each of the Riders’ goals held them back and delayed the game by almost an hour, until they finally put the puck past Brandon Butler during the final minutes. Post-game, Neufeld reflected on the on-ice commotion and shed some light on the lengthy delays throughout the night.
“It was a new referee out there and I think he was a little overwhelmed, and obviously [the Knights] didn’t like that we were beating them,” explained Neufeld.
He continued, “We were working hard, they were working hard, things got heated and that’s just what happens in the game of hockey sometimes.”
Head coach and general manager Craig Mohr echoed his player’s sentiments on Saturday night and said he was pleased with the outcome of another four-point weekend.
“I thought the Castlegar game was played really well. There were a couple of late goals, and [the Riders] didn’t get frustrated; they just refocused, reset and got the win in overtime,” said Mohr.
“Tonight, I thought the start was pretty typical after an emotional game the night before. I thought, as the game went on, we got a lot better … [The Knights] are young, they got frustrated and started to run around a little bit, and it became a really long game,” he added.
The Riders will be playing at home again during this upcoming weekend when they host the Golden Rockets in a Halloween showdown on Friday before taking on the top-placed Osoyoos Coyotes on Saturday.