After splitting their opening two games at home on September 9th and 10th, the Columbia Valley Rockies took a step back in their development with back-to-back losses to the Grand Forks Border Bruins and Creston Valley Thundercats on Friday and Saturday night (September 16th and 17th).
In front of 250 fans at the Eddie on Friday night, the Rockies played host to the Border Bruins in their third straight home game of the season. Right from puck drop, the visiting Bruins controlled the play on the Rockies, pushing the pace and forcing turnovers in the neutral zone that produced a number of quality scoring opportunities.
Just seven minutes into the game, one of the Bruins’ scoring opportunities were actualized as Garret Brisebois beat Rockies’ goaltender Will McCreight, who was starting his first game of the season, to make it 1-0.
Grand Forks continued to pepper McCreight with shots throughout the next period as they outshot the Rockies 26-23 through two periods while commanding a 5-0 lead.
Unfortunately for McCreight, that fifth goal would spell the end to his night as head coach Wade Dubielewicz replaced him with Connor McKay who had started both the season’s two previous games the weekend before. Dubielewicz told The Echo that he thought McCreight was “hung out to try a little bit” without the help he needed to stay in the game against the Bruins.
“Will is a young kid and I didn’t want to leave him in there if it got bad so I pulled him out and gave our veteran a bit of the mop up work,” he said.
The goalie change proved to show no effect on the Rockies as the Bruins continued the onslaught in the Rockies’ defensive zone, scoring two of the next three goals to cement their 7-1 victory over the Rockies.
Despite the difficult loss, Dubielewicz said he was happy with the way the team responded in the opening minutes of Saturday night’s game in Creston. Dubielewicz said the Rockies came out quick in the opening frame of their first road game of the season, setting the pace and carrying the play for the first couple of shifts.
It wasn’t long, though, before Creston had taken advantage of a Rockies’ defensive miscue and broke open the scoring with two quick goals past McKay. Outshooting the Rockies 14-4 in the first period, Creston managed to take a commanding 4-0 lead on the Rockies with 40 minutes left to play.
From there, Creston never looked back as they scored six of the game’s next seven goals and earned themselves a tidy 10-1 victory over the Rockies.
For the second night in a row, coach Dubielewicz was forced to relieve his starting goaltender in hopes of taking the stress off a rough night between the pipes. As a former goaltender himself, he said he understands the difficulty in making a goaltending change, but leaves it up to the situation.
“You can have a short leash, but then you never really learn about kids,” Dubielewicz said. “You have to let them play through it a little bit and see how it goes.”
With now a 1-3 record, he said that much of the team’s struggles this season can be attributed to an information overload for new players who are still trying to find the balance between instinctive and structured hockey on the ice.
“I’ve pumped them full of information, and they go through a transition period where they don’t play instinctively, they’re thinking on the ice and watching a lot,” he said. “I have some really, really good offensive players here, and when they get the puck they’re thinking what does Wade want me to do rather than when that puck gets on their stick, I want them to feel it and naturally know what to do.”
He said to do this, he plans on rolling back on the amount of information about different playing systems that he’s giving out to the players this week while trying to incorporate a more fun atmosphere at practice.
“We’re going to be doing some work but also a lot of fun like small area games and basically force the kids to play together and have fun,” he said. “You try to bring that instinctive part of their game back and how you do that you get the puck on their stick as much as possible and in small areas where they’re forced to not think.”
The Rockies only game this week will be at the Eddie on Saturday night when they play host to the Spokane Braves at 7:30 p.m.