By Mike Bull
Change is in the cards for Coach Will Verner and his Fernie Ghostriders.
Younger players, coaching adjustments, and a new focus on discipline and patience are some of the key factors in making sure this upcoming season is a successful one.
“We are going to try and get some more skill development this year,” said Verner. “Because we have a younger team and only six or seven players are returning from last year, there has to be an emphasis on skills. We have to be stronger on the puck.”
Last season there were only two 17-year-old players, but now there are going to be seven, with a few 16-year-olds thrown in the mix as well. Given the fresh faces, it’s going to be difficult to build on the momentum of the previous season.
“We were a goal short,” said Verner, referring to last year’s run against Castlegar in the playoffs. “We have had some success in the past, but it’s going to be interesting to see how we perform with basically a brand new team.
Aide from a more youthful presence on the ice, there is also a potentially advantageous comraderie between the players that, according to Verner, was missing last year.
“It’s more of a Kootenay based-team. There are a bunch of guys from Fernie and Cranbrook and Nelson so hopefully it will be a little bit of a tighter group.”
Verner, admits that in spite of the successful run the Ghostriders had a year ago, there were a few things he could have done to help the team, and himself.
“There were a lot of top guys playing on our team,” said Verner. “We had guys playing on the third or fourth line that would have been first line anywhere else. They had a lot of grander ideas individually, and it was my job to identify who the leaders were and I don’t think I did what I could have done. This year, with such a young team, there has to be a few guys that will be willing to step up and assume a leadership role, and a few guys that can understand their own role in terms of a team dynamic.”
That team dynamic started to form on August 22 with a conditioning and development camp in Fernie, and the first Ghostrider game is an exhibition against Beaver Valley on September 9. The first regular season game is on September 16 in Kamloops.