For the second weekend in a row, Castlegar has won two of three games. The Rebels split a home and home with the Fernie Ghostriders and handily disposed of Columbia Valley at home on Sunday.
“Fernie’s a good team. They’re another one of those teams that’s a measuring stick for us,” said Castlegar coach Steve Junker. “All in all, we’re trying to work on the things that we’ve been trying to bring across to our guys. Friday was a bit of a stumble, but I thought we rebounded and played well on Saturday and Sunday.”
Veteran forward Tyler Jones was pleased with the team’s efforts. “It was a big weekend for us,” he said. “I think we took a lot of strides in the right direction. We had a rough game Friday, but coming home Saturday and being able to win in front of the home crowd was huge.”
On Friday, the Rebs travelled to Fernie where they took on the Eddie Mountain Division leading Ghostriders in the first game of a home and home.
Castlegar fell behind early as Fernie scored twice in the first period. The Rebs tied the game up with two goals in the span of one minute. First, Peter Mingus scored at 13:54, followed by Connor Bowen at 13:00. The Ghosties then scored three goals in a row to build a 5-2 lead. Mingus scored his second goal of the game at 7:31 of the third period, but it was too late as the Rebels fell 5-3 to the hometown Riders.
“We really didn’t come out ready to play for whatever reason,” said Junker. “They took it to us for the majority of the game. We turned it up for about 10 minutes in the second period, but it’s tough to win when you’re only playing 10 minutes of a game.”
Saturday’s game was back in Castlegar and the Rebels were ready.
Tyler Robinson scored the first goal of the game at 17:06 of the first period assisted by Stuart Walton and Nolan Kinney.
Derek Georgopolous of Fernie tied the game 1-1 a couple of minutes later with assists from Easton Bodeux and Alex Milhouse.
Robinson scored the game-winner at the 13:01 mark of the second period as he put the puck past Rider goalie Chris Solecki. Assisting on the winning goal were Kody Disher and Braydon Horcoff.
Connor Beauchamp was solid between the pipes for Castlegar stopping 30 shots for the win.
“It was a much stronger effort on our part,” said Junker. “I thought we did a lot of things really well. They’re a very good team and coming away with two points is big for us.”
Things were a little easier on Sunday for the Rebels as they faced the 0-12 Columbia Valley Rockies from Invermere at home.
“It’s one of those games you make sure you stay focused for,” said Jones. “If you’re not ready than they can come out of nowhere.”
Fortunately, Castlegar was more than ready. The Rebs dominated from the get-go, scoring three unanswered goals in the first period, followed by four more in the second. The final score was 8-0 for the Rebels.
Anthony Delong led the Rebs with two goals and an assist. Walton chipped in with two goals and one assist, while Arthur Andrews scored once and added two helpers. Also scoring were Riley Ostoforoff, Kinney, Diego Bartlett, and Joren Johnson.
Associate player (AP) Brenden Mills picked up the shutout win in goal for Castlegar, stopping 16 Columbia Valley shots.
“I think especially in the last two games we’ve really got our forecheck going,” said Jones. “We’ve been keeping their D on their toes and making sure they don’t have a lot of time to get the puck out.”
This weekend, the Rebels hit the road to the East Kootenay to face Kimberley, Columbia Valley, and Golden. Kimberley should be the real challenge for Castlegar. The Nitros are second in the Eddie Mountain Division with a 7-3-0-0 record. On Sept. 30, Castlegar got past Kimberley 1-0 at the Complex.
“It’ll be another really good test for us,” said Junker. “Getting on the road with all the guys will be a bit of a bonding experience. Hopefully, we’ll gel as a team together. Having the gruelling three games in three nights and sleeping in a hotel and eating on the road isn’t always easy. It’s another mental test for us.”
The Golden Rockets might be a darkhorse at 4-4-0-1. They beat the 9-3 North Okanagan Knights, but than needed overtime to beat Columbia Valley 6-5 on Oct. 7. The Rockets are led by 20 year-old centre Darren Andre (16 points in 13 games) and 19 year-old Keith Wake (14 points).
“It’s the first road trip of the year,” said Jones. “It’s an exciting time for the young guys. We just have to make sure we stay focused and get the job done.”
The Rebels seem firmly entrenched in third place in the Neil Murdoch Division, three points behind Beaver Valley and six points behind first place Nelson with three games in hand.