The Fernie Ghostriders and Columbia Valley Rockies are set to clash in the opening round of the KIJHL playoffs Friday in a matchup of the Eddie Mountain Division’s second and third seeds.
Fernie is red hot heading into the playoffs, as the Ghostriders have won five straight while the Rockies are on a cold streak, as Columbia Valley has lost their last six. Two of those games during the team’s respective streaks were against one another, as the Ghostriders won 5-2 back on February 15th before a 6-5 overtime victory in the regular season finale on the 22nd.
Jeff Wagner, Head Coach of the Fernie Ghostriders is proud of how his team has played down the stretch.
“I think that we did a good job of playing a good brand of hockey in the latter half of the season, we just want to make sure that we’re building off of that,” Wagner told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “We’ve had two pretty good games against Columbia Valley in the last two weeks so build off of the successes that we had against them and hope for the best.”
Wade Dubielewicz, Head Coach of the Columbia Valley Rockies said they will need to get back to their style of play if they look to compete against the Ghostriders in the Division Semifinal.
“I think we need to play a really strong team game,” said Dubielewicz. “Fernie, top to bottom has a really good roster, they got solid goaltending, we have to try and make them feel uncomfortable in their own rink and we got a gameplan put together to try and do that.”
The Ghostriders were a balanced team this year with 11 rookies and 12 veterans on the active roster. Wagner believes they really came together as a squad with a few additions along the way.
“Going into the season, you’re not sure what you have when you have 13 or 14 rookies and we’re really proud of the way our group handled the transition for the younger guys. Our veterans stepped up early on in the season and that allowed our rookie guys to really take some strides as junior hockey players and once the end of the season came around, it seemed like everyone was in full force.”
Columbia Valley is a young team with only a handful of veterans and 13 rookies on the active roster. Dubielewicz said that he believes the resiliency in their younger players is probably the team’s greatest strength, but it does come along with some growing pains.
“We are young but we are resilient. I don’t feel like we are ever out of a game but at times we can be up and have a lead too and that youth can kind of bite you in the butt and let teams back into games.”
“I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job as a coaching staff developing our talent and developing our team game and to be honest, the kids, for the most part, have done an incredible job,” added Dubielewicz. “I think we’re pretty happy with where we’re at right now and I think we’ve got a good chance to win this series.”
Aware of their opposition’s young talent, Wagner has crafted a gameplan to try and prevent the Rockies from gaining any advantage early on in the series.
“They’re really strong in transition and they’re very opportunistic when you give them high-quality scoring opportunities,” said Wagner. “For us, it’s making sure that we’re managing the puck properly, we’re taking care of our blue lines on both ends of the ice and then we’re playing strong in front of our goalie.”
The Ghostrider’s goaltending has been one of their greatest strengths this season. Ethan Fitzgerald, formerly with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, has 17 wins in 27 games played with a 2.68 GAA and a .921 SV%. Fernie also added Brett Balas late in the season, who has lost just one of his eight games played with a .930 SV% and a 2.41 GAA to lead the team.
“You’re not going to go anywhere in the playoffs without strong goaltending so we bank on Fitzgerald and Balas to backstop us when we’re making mistakes in front of them and then I think our team does a good job of creating opportunities offensively in all areas of the ice,” added Wagner. “We’re strong in front of the net, we’re creative in the offensive zone and we want to just build off of that.”
With the regular season behind them, the Ghostriders and Rockies will open the playoffs at Fernie Memorial Arena on Friday at 7:30 pm MST, while the other Division Semifinal has the Kimberley Dynamiters host the Creston Valley Thunder Cats at the Civic Centre at 7:00 pm MST.
“I hope everybody comes out to Fernie and Invermere and Kimberley and Creston,” said Dubielewicz. “It’s an exciting time of year, some great hockey and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Here’s the breakdown for each team entering Game 1 of their best-of-seven Division Semifinal:
|(#2) Fernie Ghostriders||(#3) Columbia Valley Rockies|
|Record||33-11-2-3 (71 points)||22-19-2-6 (52 points)|
|Last 10 Games||8-1-1-0 (W5)||3-5-0-2 (L6)|
|Top Scorers||Dylan Defosse (24G, 35A, 59P)||Tristan Lambert (11G, 26A, 37P)|
|Gavin Lawrie (18G, 37A, 55P)||Gavin Fleck (22G, 10A, 32P)|
|Johnny Elias (19G, 31A, 50P)||Jonathan Milligan (12G, 17A, 29P)|
|Top Goalie||Brett Balas (2.41 GAA, .930 SV%)||Riley Wallace (3.23 GAA, .887 SV%)|
|Goal Differential||(+) 70||(+) 8|
Here’s the schedule for the Division Semifinal series which opens Friday at the Fernie Memorial Arena at 7:30 pm MST:
|Game 1||Fri. February 28th||Ghostriders vs Rockies||Fernie Memorial Arena||7:30pm|
|Game 2||Sat. February 28th||Ghostriders vs Rockies||Fernie Memorial Arena||7:30pm|
|Game 3||Mon. March 2nd||Rockies vs Ghostriders||Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena||7:00pm|
|Game 4||Tues. March 3rd||Rockies vs Ghostriders||Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena||7:00pm|
|Game 5||Thurs. March 5th||Ghostriders vs Rockies||Fernie Memorial Arena||7:30pm|
|Game 6||Fri. March 6th||Rockies vs Ghostriders||Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena||7:00pm|
|Game 7||Sat. March 7th||Ghostriders vs Rockies||Fernie Memorial Arena||7:30pm|