Rockies players crowd the Kimberley Dynamiters' net at the Eddie on Saturday night.

Rockies finding their stride in weekend split

The Columbia Valley Rockies are finally finding their stride, splitting last weekend's games against Fernie and Kimberley.

After splitting the Rockies’ two games last weekend, head coach Wade Dubielewicz said he believes that the team is starting to turn the corner on the 2016-17 season.

“We’re just coming out of the fog,” he said. “The kids are starting to get their confidence back and playing instinctively at the same time with some structure. It’s been a long five weeks and you’re starting to see what we’re trying to do here shine through.”

The Rockies started their duo of weekend games on the road facing a strong opponent in the Fernie Ghostriders who sit one place ahead of the Rockies in the Eddie Mountain Division of the KIJHL.

It didn’t take long for the Rockies to get out in front of the hometown Ghostriders with Will Reynish picking up his second goal of the season only four minutes into the opening frame. Controlling the play in the opening frame, the Rockies added their second goal of the game in the second period to take a 2-0 commanding lead. That would be all that the Rockies needed to secure their fourth win of the season, with Connor McKay in net who stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced on the evening.

A surprising takeaway from the game’s box score was the Rockies carrying the play, demonstrated by outshooting the Ghostriders 34 to 33. Dubielewicz said this is a positive sign going forward for the team.

“There are a lot of factors in that,” he said. “One of them is that I added two defenceman and that’s going to help. Our centres are playing better down low, our wingers are doing a better job so the structure of our game is slowly bringing their shot total down and evening it up.”

Both Dawson Boehm and Craig Ofner made their Rockies debuts in the game against the Ghostriders and were integral to reversing some of the defensive misgivings that had plagued the team so far this season. Dubielewicz said it has been a perfect time to add these two players to the team after already undergoing the heavy-lifting portion of the chemistry building for this year’s Rockies incarnation.

“It’s interesting,” he said, “It seems when you get your team in order and you bring in new bodies, the new guys seem to fall into place really easily, but the process to get there seems like a marathon. We’re in that situation now where we’ve added a veteran guy and a rookie in Boehm. They just came in, fell into place, and if you give them a little bit of structure and explain what we’re trying to do, it’s no problem for them.”

Their play continued to impress the following night when they played the first place Kimberley Dynamiters at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena. Playing in front of 250 fans on Saturday night, the Rockies took two one-goal leads in the game, but each time allowed the Dynamiters to fight their way back into the game.

With nearly four minutes left in play, the Rockies were given a prime opportunity to take the game for themselves as the Dynamiters were handed a four-minute penalty for tripping. Despite the Rockies peppering Kimberley’s goaltender with shots in the final minutes, they were unsuccessful and were forced to play in overtime.

Only four minutes into the four-on-four overtime play, the Dynamiters took advantage of the Rockies’ inability to capitalize and beat goaltender Will McCreight to take a deciding 3-2 victory.

Dubielewicz said the two games were a step forward for the team with plenty of work remaining to get the team into the upper echelons of the Eddie Mountain Division.

“Again, we’re young and we’ve got to sort out our power play because it’s the difference between two and one point, it seems like,” he said. “You have an opportunity in a four-minute power play and yeah, we had some chances there, but we’re definitely not generating enough goals to allow us to win more games.”

The Rockies have three games on the schedule this week with a Tuesday night game in Golden then travelling to Fernie on Friday and returning home to host Castlegar on Saturday at the Eddie. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.