Rockies face off against divisional leaders Creston Valley Thunder Cats

The Columbia Valley Rockies prepare to take on the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the first round of KIJHL.

The Columbia Valley Rockies find themselves in a unique position having played the last two regular season games against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, their rivals in the first round of playoffs. The Rockies are facing the Thunder Cats again this week, four more times to be exact for the beginning of the playoff series.

On Friday, February 17th, the two teams faced off in Creston. The Rockies had a hard-fought game, but came up short with a final score of 5-3 in favour of the Thunder Cats.

“We were a bit shorthanded numbers-wise, played really hard, played really well, but again, Creston’s a good team and we came up on the short end, but pretty proud of the effort we gave,” said Rockies head coach Wade Dublelewicz.

For Dublelewicz, 20-year-old Braydon Baker was the standout athlete of the game. He stated Braydon set up a lot of guys for some quality chances, but the puck just didn’t bounce in. On Saturday, February 18th, the teams rematched at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena. The Rockies were unable to surpass the Creston Valley Thunder Cats with a final score of 4-2.

“It was basically the same thing Saturday night, too. We played pretty hard, had lots of chances to win the game. To be honest, their goaltender came up and played extremely well,” said Dublelewicz.

Heading into their first playoff matches February 24th and 25th in Creston Valley, the Rockies had two athletes out on separate injuries. Colby Sherlock is still recovering from a high ankle sprain and Ryan Skytt from an upper body injury.

“It’s possible we might get Ryan Skytt back, mid-playoff series. We’re crossing our fingers. Other than that, we’re healthy,” said Dublelewicz.

Playing Creston two times before playoffs was a unique situation, stated Dublelewicz, allowing the team to play with things systematically and get a read on the opposition.

“It works both ways. Being familiar with them definitely gives both teams a chance to prepare for one another. Basically, you don’t want to show your hand, right? You kinda play with certain parts of a system,” said Dublelewicz.

The Rockies coaching staff decided to start playoffs with 18-year-old Ben Kelsch in net. Kelsch played the 2015/ 2016 season as a goaltender for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, he then split the 2016/2017 season as a Nelson Leafs goalie and with the Columbia Valley Rockies.

“He’s played extremely well and extremely efficient for us, were just going to give him a go and I’m sure he’s going to do very well,” said Dublelewicz.

Heading into playoffs, the team will continue to play their style of hockey, focusing on more of a physical game.

“We definitely have to play physical. Creston is a very mobile defense and we have to do a really good job of taking their time and space away. Making them pay a price every time they touch the puck,” said Dublelewicz.

The Rockies planned on watching tapes from the last two regular season matches to plan more of their playoff strategy, but Dublelewicz is confident in the team’s ability.

“We’re in a really good spot as a team right now, we’re heading in the right direction and were definitely underdogs in this series, we have nothing to lose. We’re going to push Creston as hard as we can and hopefully it gives us an opportunity to win,” said Dublelewicz.

Check next week’s Valley Echo for complete playoffs coverage.