It took 15 years, but the Castlegar Rebels are back in the KIJHL finals.
Ryan Aynsley scored a pair of goals late in the second period to break a 2-2 draw, as the Rebels eliminated the Fernie Ghostriders 5-2 in front of 790 fans at the Castlegar Complex Tuesday.
Aynsley fired two power-play markers past former Rebels goaltender Andrew Walton for his team-leading 13th and 14th goals of the playoffs, as Castlegar struck four times while a man up en route to a six-game victory over the vaunted Ghostriders.
Tyler Robinson finished off a pretty passing play to give Castlegar a lead just over five minutes into the game, but Fernie’s Johnny Park levelled the score minutes later.
After taking a high-stick in the face from Cale Wright, the Rebels’ Spencer Brodt put Castlegar up 2-1 early in the second period on a power-play, but again the Ghostriders equalized on a short-handed marker from defensive specialist Mike Anderson.
Cue Aynsley’s heroics.
With time winding down on a two-man advantage, the 20-year-old from Kelowna fired a slapshot past Walton, only to do the same on a subsequent power-play minutes later.
Fellow Okanagan product Erik Wentzel rounded out the scoring 12 seconds into the third period.
Castlegar will now meet the Osoyoos Coyotes for the KIJHL title beginning Saturday in the South Okanagan.
The Rebels last played in the championship series in 1996, when a club coached by former NHLer Pat Price defeated the Sicamous Eagles for the third championship in franchise history.
More photos from the game at: facebook.com/castlegarnews