After the Rockies seemingly had turned a corner on the 2016-17 season, picking up points in each of their last three games in October, they took one step backwards losing two of three games in the span of a week.
Nowhere was this step backwards more evident than in the Rockies loss to the Castlegar Rebels 7-2 on Saturday night playing in front of a near sold out crowd.
Starting out the game, it continued to look like the Rockies had indeed turned a page on the 2016-17 and were developing into a real contender within the Eddie Mountain Division of the KIJHL. In the opening 20 minutes, they held their own in the shot total department, recording 11 shots while capitalizing on two to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Had it not been for a several timely saves from Rebels’ goaltender Jason Mailhiot, the Rockies could have just as easily been leading by more than two goals. That said, while the Rockies emerged from the dressing room to start the second period, they left their effort in the locker room as the Rebels quickly reversed the game, peppering Rockies goaltender Will McCreight with 20 shots in the period to tie the game 2-2.
Although McCreight was able to keep the Rockies in the game throughout the second, the Rockies defensive lapses eventually caught up to them in the third as the Rebels poured it on them for five goals in the period, three of which came within five minutes.
By the final buzzer, heads sank on the Rockies bench as far as they have all season, as players sat on the bench afterwards watching the game that had already passed them by.
For head coach Wade Dubielewicz, the list of mistakes was long and unending on Saturday night.
“Basically it was just a collection of mental errors, from our back end all the way through the forwards in the lineup,” he said. “Missed assignments on face-offs, missed assignments on breakouts, unwillingness to get pucks deep so we can create momentum with our fore-check, a collection of things that we were not doing and we were not executing caused us to change for the second and third period of the game.”
Where these errors stemmed from, he said, is pretty simple.
“We stopped playing,” he said. “Our guys, for some reason, stopped moving their feet and stopped taking away time and space from the opposing team. Castlegar you have to give a bit of credit, they have a couple good players and when you don’t take away time and space, they’ll make you pay for it and that’s what happened.”
With such a devastating loss coming off a lackadaisical effort at home, Dubielewicz said he understands the pressure of owing more to the fans in the Columbia Valley.
“That’s the hardest thing to swallow about it too,” he said. “You don’t owe it to the fans but you kind of do. We have good support in this community and to be honest they can accept losing but they want the work ethic to be there and the compete and when it wasn’t there Saturday, it’s pretty hard to swallow.”
Peter Matthews, newcomer to the team’s defensive unit, used his experience as a 20-year-old junior hockey player to demonstrate the importance of not putting too much emphasis on any one game.
“You can’t get hung up on games like that,” he said. “Those games are going to happen, you’re going to lose games like that but you have to put it in the tail lights and move forward.”
Despite the loss, the week’s efforts were not completely for naught as the Rockies picked up two points on Tuesday with a 4-1 win over the Golden Rockets, allowing them to stay in front of them within the division. The win wasn’t long-lived as the Rockies dropped their game against the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday evening by a final score of 5-2.
With only one game on the schedule for the Rockies this upcoming weekend, Saturday night in Fernie, Dubielewicz said he knows the road to overcoming this loss and finding success will be paved with plenty of sweat in practice this week.
“You work and you work hard,” he said. “You give the kids consequences for lack of compete and work ethic and execution. We are going to have a hard tough week of practice and we’re going to go to Fernie on Saturday and if our compete is there we have a really good chance to win a hockey game.”