The before called Christmas Classic with the Fernie Ghostriders, has been rebranded as the Holiday Classic, due to the KIJHL College Showcase bumping the games to the first weekend in January instead of just after Christmas.
This year, the home-and-home series started in Fernie in front of 1,140 fans, a capacity crowd in the Fernie Memorial Arena.
The first period, while entertaining, was scoreless.
In the second, the Ghostriders opened the scoring. Two minutes later, Brandt Bertoia, playing his first game since the holiday break, tied the game at one.
The ‘Riders however, fueled by the chants of their crowd, would finish out the second period with a one goal lead over the Nitros, despite being outshot 16-9 in the period.
The Dynamiters continued to pummel the ‘Riders goalie with pucks, even on the power play, but went zero for seven on the night.
It wasn’t until Keegan McDowell got a helping hand from Bertoia, that the game was tied at two, and headed to overtime.
Surprisingly, the four-on-four yielded no results. So a three-on-three, or three’s as EA Sports NHL 19 likes to call it, was needed.
Open ice, lots of chances, but no goals. In a rare occurrence, the game ended in a tie.
Adam Andersen made 32 saves in the tie, while Bertoia was named the Away Star of the game with his goal and assist.
Game two of the Holiday Classic took place the following night at the Civic Centre in front of 1,052 fans.
“It was good to get back on our own ice.” Brock Palmer said. “Fernie is hard to play in. It’s a hard rink to play in. Lots of noise, lots of bouncing pucks. It’s good to be back on home ice, where we feel comfortable.”
The fans were set back when the ‘Riders, for the second game in a row, opened the scoring.
Little did everyone know what was in store for the second period.
Cam Russell tied the game up on the power play. Palmer gave the Nitros a one goal lead.
Moments later on the power play, McDowell made it a two goal game.
Then as the period wound down in the final minute, Russell scored his second of the game for a three goal separation.
By the 10 minute mark in the third, the Nitros still maintained a three goal lead, and it seemed as if they had won.
Within the span of 38 seconds, the Ghostriders made a game of it, scoring two goals. With 7:10 left, the game was once again tightly contested.
The Nitros missed a couple of empty net chances, before Brady Daniels sealed the deal with 10 seconds left, giving the Nitros a 5-3 victory.
Brett Anderson made 15 saves for the win, while Cam Russell, with his two goals, was the star of the game.
“For the majority of the game, it went well.” Stuart said after the game. “When we were doing the things we were capable of doing, it really really well. Overall, it was a good night.”
What made this game such a success for the Nitros against the ‘Riders compared to the night prior, was shot quality, according to Stuart.
“Their goalie stole the game last night (Friday), but we made things tougher for him tonight.”
For Stuart, even though they were not rewarded on the scoresheet, the Carter Spring, Ryan Bennett, and Neil Kingston, was the best forward line. They were doing exactly what is expected in Nitros hockey.
On the back end, it was Lucas Chilton, whose efforts were heralded by Stuart.
As for the experience, despite the change in dates, it was a fantastic experience, and may be at the same time next year.