By Gerry Foster
The Grand Forks Border Bruins concluded their longest road trip of the season by splitting two games in the East KootenayS. On Friday the team faced off against the Fernie Ghostriders, the game being played in Sparwood due to construction at the arena in Fernie.
It was a longer than usual bus ride, as the team was held up near Castlegar for at least two hours due to a traffic accident. The Bruins bus was not involved in the accident, but it took a long time to clear the highway.
Not surprisingly the team was sluggish in the first period, and Fernie applied pressure early and often. Zak Larson was in goal for the Bears and was outstanding. Nikolas Sombrowski opened the scoring for the Riders six minutes into the game but Briar Whyte notched his sixth goal of the year before the intermission. The assists went to Liam Stalwick and Josh Garlough-Bell. The latter was back in the lineup after missing several games due to an injury.
After the sluggish opening period with the Bruins being outshot 18-8, the team found their legs in the middle frame and Zane Avery notched his team leading 12th goal of the season, the lone goal of the period. Only 25 seconds into the final stanza Nemes tied the game on a Fernie power play. Bruins Jake Huculak restored the lead less than a minute later.
However, shortly afterwards Brendan Nemes struck again for the Ghostriders. With the tension mounting Briar Whyte, who has been playing inspired hockey recently, put his team in front for good with his second of the game and seventh of the year. Later in the period Liam Stalwick notched an insurance goal, then Keaghan Holub made it 6-3 with a shot into an empty net.
Whyte was chosen Bruins’ star of the game but honourable mention must be given to goalkeeper Zak Larson for a solid performance. The team needs quality goaltending and they received it this night.
The team faced the Kimberley Dynamiters on Saturday, and it was all Kimberley. The team this season is one of the league’s elite teams. After their 8-3 thumping of a tired Bruins team they have now scored 97 times. Coincidentally, the number 97 also shows up in the Bruins’ team stats; unfortunately it’s in the goals allowed column. The Dynamiters are tough to score on, allowing but two goals per game. The three goals Grand Forks scored is one above that impressive average.
Nathan Cohen-Wallis, Josh Garlough-Bell and Jackson Herridge, with his first goal in the KIJHL scored for Grand Forks. After 20 games, the Border Bruins remain in fourth place in the Neil Murdcoch Division, two points behind Spokane and three points back of second place Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
Twenty-eight games remain for the Border Bruins so there is ample time to make up ground on the teams above them in the standings. There are several players on the injury list; if any of them lose significant time it will make things tougher. Among the injuries are two concussions and two shoulder dislocations.
I opened this article with reference to the Bruins longest road trip of the season. Let me elaborate to give readers a perception on the travel side of playing in a 20 team league in the BC Interior.
Six games in a row away from home; in fact, in their last nine games only one has been at home, all this in a span of 23 days.
The old Willie Nelson song “On the Road Again” would be an appropriate theme for the past few weeks. Except one phrase, “I can’t wait to get on the road again,” might be deleted!
The bus odometer would have registered approximately 3700 kilometres. Putting that into perspective, the team has driven to Winnipeg and back – next year they’ll try and arrange an exhibition game with the Jets!
The Bruins are grateful for the bus drivers and the volunteers who arrange these trips. Tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7 p.m. we welcome home our Border Bruins when they entertain the North Okanagan Nights.