What a season it’s been for the Columbia Valley Rockies, who are ending their year after the first round of playoffs.
The Rockies were defeated in four straight games by the Creston Valley Thunder Cats with the final scores being 5-1, 7-2, 7-4, and 5-3. According to the Rockies head coach Wade Dubielewicz, the scores aren’t reflective of how the team played. He added they could have won games three and four.
“For the most part, I’m extremely proud of this group. The four-nothing sweep is nothing indicative of how it went,” said Dubielewicz.
As an opponent, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats were a highly offensive team with an extremely strong goaltender, which made the difference in this series.
“In game one, we came out really strong, ready to go, had a high tempo to everything we’ve been doing on the ice. I’d say we out-chanced Creston, but their goalie Brock Lafebevre played extremely well through games one through four,” said Dubielewicz.
During game two, the Rockies were riddled by penalties; the team fought to make opportunities, but were unable to pull ahead.
“I think we were a little bit flat; we didn’t have the same energy that we did in game one. In my opinion, we had some average officiating that played a big part in the game,” said Dubielewicz.
During games one and two, Rockies forward Braydon Barker was Dubielewicz’s stand-out player of the matches.
“Braydon Barker up front demanded a lot of attention from the other team and he fought through it, created a lot of offensive opportunity,” he said.
The first two games were in Creston and for the final two games, the Rockies were back home in the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena with the coaching staff deciding to make a few changes to the lineup for the home games.
“We moved some pieces around, I changed the lines a little bit to try to create, I don’t know, I guess a little more physicality up front. A little simpler plan defensively and, to be honest, it really did work,” said Dubielewicz.
For Dubielewicz, the Rockies outplayed the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in game three, but the game came down to strong goaltending from Creston’s Brock Lafebevre. Game four, the Rockies were down by three but came back to score two back-to-back goals in the second. The first goal scored by Cooper Krauss with 46 seconds left; and, with nine seconds left in the period, Ryan Skytt scored the second.
“They’re very emotionally sensitive, positive or negatively. So when we were able to get that goal and then get another quick one, we came in here and we were in the game and these kids were going to give everything they had to try to win game four to push to force game five,” said Dubielewicz. “Put it this way, a little bit of a spark can turn into a bonfire for us.”
The team came out strong in the third with Kyler Shmigelsky scoring the third goal, tying up the game at 15:16. The Creston Valley Thunder Cats responded two more times, taking the fourth and final match and advancing onto the next round of playoffs. Standout athlete of the final match was Rockies forward Ryan Skytt, who was out with an upper body injury for the first three games of the playoff series.
“He came back for game four, most likely too early, he couldn’t hurt himself anymore but there was a certain level of pain that he had to deal with. He’s an extremely tough kid and actually ended up taking two big hits in one shift and I thought he was actually done for the game. He came back to the bench and begged me to keep playing him and I did and he was an impact player in the game,” said Dubielewicz.
The Rockies stuck with Ben Kelsch in net and he was credited by Dubielewicz for giving the team a chance to win. With the season ending for the Columbia Valley Rockies, the team will lose three athletes — Braydon Barker, Ryan St. Jean and Peter Mathews — due to them aging out of the KIJHL.
Looking ahead to next season, the team is focusing on recruiting some more speed and physicality, said Dubielewicz.