Following a 5-2 loss to the Golden Rockets on Friday, November 18, the Columbia Valley Rockies played a thrilling game in front of their hometown fans this past Saturday.
Played against the division-leading Fernie Ghostriders, the game was scoreless midway through the first period. While the Rockies were playing hard, offensive chances were few and far between, while the Ghostriders piled on the shots in the early going.
Finally, with eight minutes remaining in the frame, former Rockies player Reto Stiz burned his former team and put one past Rockies goalie Bruce Corrigal after a brief scramble in front of the net. The Ghostriders kept the pressure up, scoring three more goals before the end of the period, and the Rockies faced what looked like an insurmountable deficit heading into intermission, having been outshot 19-3 in the opening frame.
“(After that first period) I told our guys to stick to our game plan, and to keep it simple,” Rockies coach Marc Ward said. “We had to keep our feet moving.”
The Rockies opened the second period with good pressure, getting a few good shots on Ghostriders goalie Scott Legault, then capitalized on their momentum when Rockies defenceman Brandon Lijdsman’s wrister from the point found its way into the back of the net just 50 seconds into the period, energizing both the crowd and the Rockies bench.
The Rockies kept up the pressure, but the Ghostriders had other plans, scoring a quick goal of their own to restore the four-goal advantage.
Following the goal, the Rockies suffered a bit of a scare when during a Ghostriders two-on-one Rockies goalie Corrigal was run into and stayed down for a couple minutes. However, Corrigal soon got up to the encouragement of both fans and players from both teams, and looked no worse for wear, making several key saves in the following minutes to keep his team within striking distance. This became especially pivotal when a few minutes later, red-hot Rockies forward Joe Colborne made a gorgeous move down the right wing to undress a defender, and then put the puck home top shelf over Legault’s shoulder for a absolutely jaw-dropping goal to put the Rockies right back in the game, down 5-2.
The Rockies seemed to rally around that play as they maintained tremendous pressure in the following minutes, while the Ghostriders seemed taken aback, and committed several key penalties in the face of the Rockies furious onslaught. This led to a two-man advantage, after Fernie defenceman Evan Burgess took an ill-advised penalty when he put the puck over the glass while in the defensive zone, prompting the referee to call a delay-of game penalty. Despite his protests, the powerplay went on, and the Rockies took full advantage when Jordan Stimpson scored his third goal of the season, when his seeing-eye shot from the point found its way past the Fernie goaltender to pull the Rockies within two with seven minutes remaining in the frame.
Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Rockies goalie Corrigal continued to stand tall, stopping several great Fernie chances, and once again, this led to dividends on the offensive side of the ice, when Colborne came streaking down the right wing to pull an almost identical move past the defender and score his second of the night on Fernie goalie Legault, prompting the Ghostriders to put in their backup goalie following three unanswered Rockies goals.
Colborne now has six goals and 12 points in just seven games with the Rockies, following his return from an injury suffered early in the season.
“(Colborne) is a great kid on and off the ice,” Ward said, following the game. “He works hard, he competes, and he brings a lot to our team, and he showed it tonight.”
With the score 5-4 with four minutes remaining, the momentum was squarely in the Rockies favour, but that’s when Stiz once again made the Rockies regret the trade earlier in the season that took him to Fernie, as he scored his second of the night a minute later to restore a two-goal advantage. The Rockies, however, remained resilient, and with just two minutes left in the frame Rockies forward Todd Sykes put home a quick response to pull the Rockies within one to put the score at 6-5 heading into the third period.
The Rockies began the period on the powerplay following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Fernie at the end of the second, and the following powerplay provided the Rockies some of their best chances to equalize in the third period. However, soon after, the Rockies got into some penalty trouble of their own, and that’s when Fernie defenceman Ty Morton put home a shot from the point that Corrigal likely never saw until it was in the back of the net. Morton then polished off his hat-trick with another powerplay marker with six minutes remaining to essentially put the game out of reach at 8-5. The Ghostriders finished three for five on the powerplay and outshot the Rockies 41-20 over the course of the game.
“The team realizes where we’re at, and we’ve developed at a really good pace—I think every one of our players has gotten better since the start of the year,” Ward said. “We need to work on our consistency—we need better starts and we need to learn to maintain and play our gameplan from 60 minutes… that’s our biggest hurdle to get over right now.”
The Rockies then finished a three games in three nights stretch when they faced rival Golden Rockets the following day, November 20. In a disheartening game for Rockies fans, the Rockies were dominated 10-2, being outshot 54-22 in the game.
First period consistency once again came back to haunt the Rockies, as they again managed only three shots in the frame while allowing 19, en-route to a 3-0 hole after the first period of play. The Rockies managed to find their way onto the scoreboard late in the second period on forward Todd Sykes’ third goal in as many nights, but the Rockets responded before the period was up and went into the break with a 6-1 lead.
While the Rockies began the third with a powerplay goal from Kellen Marchand, the third period provided much of the same as the first two, as the Rockets put home four more goals for a 10-2 victory. The loss finds the Rockies at 1-23-0-1 on the season.
The Rockies next game will pit them against the Ghostriders once again on November 24 in Fernie. The team then returns home for two nights, when the winless Grand Forks Border Bruins visit November 25, follwed by the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on the 26.