While the Columbia Valley Rockies Junior B hockey team will be facing all teams throughout the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) over the course of the regular season, each teams’ playoff race is only between the other clubs in their own division.
There are twenty teams in the KIJHL, which are split evenly into four divisions. Upon conclusion of the regular season, the top-ranking four teams in the divisions of five advance to the post season.
The Rockies were in a comfortable position to make the playoffs by the midway point of last season, wedged securely in fourth place. However, after a 13-game losing streak, the Golden Rockets brought themselves within striking distance of the Rockies as the season reached its finale. Golden had an opportunity to leap-frog during the dramatic last game of their regular season, but an overtime win by Columbia Valley clinched the Rockies their spot in the playoffs.
Because the Rockies placed fourth, they were matched against the top-seeded Thunder Cats. Creston Valley smoked Columbia Valley in four games straight, sweeping the best-of-seven series.
Even during the regular season, Creston Valley took the Eddie Mountain Division by storm last year, earning 80 points at the end of the 52-game season.
Teams are awarded two points for a win, one point for a tie or loss in overtime, and no points after losing in regulation.
Between the Thunder Cats and Rockies in the Eddie Mountain Division were the Fernie Ghostriders and the Kimberley Dynamiters.
For most of last season, it appeared as though Fernie would place second behind Creston Valley. But after losing five of their last seven game, while Kimberley went undefeated in their final seven, the Dynamiters finished second in the Eddie Mountain Division to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
As the second and third seeded teams in the division, Fernie and Kimberley faced each other in the first round of the playoffs, where Kimberley advanced after five games.
Kimberley was ready for Creston Valley, leading three games to none. The Thunder Cats managed to come back and win four-in-a-row however, and win the series in seven games. Creston Valley was then defeated by Beaver Valley, who then advanced to the final round of the playoffs, where they were declared the KIJHL champs after taking out the Kamloops Storm in seven games.
While Kimberley’s failure in last year’s playoffs was immense, the club held onto many of their talented players. They have won all three of their games so far this season.
“I look at a team like Kimberley; they have a lot of players returning, solid goaltending, and speedy, quick forwards,” said Golden Rockets head coach Ty Davidson, when asked about divisional threats.
Similar observations were made by Rockies general manager Ross Bidinger and Ghostrider head coach Craig Mohr.
“Our forwards can skate with the rest of the league; our defence can be tightened up,” said Mr. Bidinger.
The Fernie Ghostriders are another threatening squad, Mr. Bidinger said. That’s who the Rockies are playing next, when the two meet at the Eddie on Friday night (September 26th).