KIJHL: Rockies revive playoff hopes

The Rockies are getting back in the game with two wins and a close loss last weekend.

Rockies player Doan Smith takes the puck behind the net against the Golden Rockets on Sunday

Rockies player Doan Smith takes the puck behind the net against the Golden Rockets on Sunday

After three consecutive three-game weekends, the Columbia Valley Rockies Junior B hockey team had a strong finish to the most intensive stretch of the season so far.

The Rockies took on the North Okanagan Knights on Friday, November 14th, Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Saturday, November 15th, and the Golden Rockets on Sunday, November 16th. After losing seven straight games on the road in the two weeks prior, all Rockies games last weekend were at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena.

“Last weekend (against Grand Forks, Beaver Valley, and Creston Valley), the results weren’t there, but the effort was,” said general manager Ross Bidinger. “We ran into some hot goaltending and we couldn’t bury it.”

But it was a different story back on home ice when the Knights came to visit.

The Rockies took a 2-0 lead late in the first with two power play goals.

Then, in the second, Sam Young scored shorthanded, again on the power play, and three times at even strength — all interrupted — to earn himself a natural hat trick, a very rare achievement in ice hockey. That put Columbia Valley ahead by five, but a single Knights goal near the end of the second made the score 5-1.

Two more Rockies goals in the third brought the final score to 7-1. Goaltender Brody Nelson stopped 17 shots.

Aside from Young’s three goals, Ryan St. Jean, Carter Forsyth, Dario Piva, and Doan Smith all scored for the Rockies on Friday. Assists were awarded to Smith (2), Carter Melnyk (2), Dondre Watson, Allan MacPherson, St. Jean, Kellen Marchand, Young, and Forsyth.

“This weekend, we got things going against North Okanagan,” Mr. Bidinger said. “We steamrolled them.”

The Creston Valley Thunder Cats were at the Eddie on Saturday, and there was no scoring in the first period.

During the second, Creston Valley scored to take the first lead, but an exchange of goals put the Rockies ahead before the period’s end.

Two late unanswered Thunder Cats goals in the third allowed them to win, defeating the Rockies 4-3.

“We should have had Creston. We had a defensive lapse in the third and gave it up, but we outplayed them.”

Goalie Nelson made 31 saves. Rockies goals were scored by Smith, Marchand, and Young. Assists went to Randy Teeple, Dustin Kostiuk, Doan Smith, and Ryan Lawson.

Another division rival was in Invermere on Sunday afternoon — the Golden Rockets.

The Rockies were scored upon first early in the game, but tied it up midway through the first.

Golden scored twice in the second to give themselves at two-goal lead before a Rockies power play goal cut the deficit in half.

The game was then tied early in the third, until the midway point of the period when Smith put the Rockies ahead with a breakaway goal.

Before Columbia Valley could claim a win in regulation, both teams exhausted their time-out in the final 90 seconds of play, and Golden put it to better use, having pulled the goalie to score a tying goal with just 14 seconds on the clock.

The Rockies had a 4-on-3 power play in the first five-minute over-time period but were unsuccessful. During the second overtime with 3-on-3 action, Dondre Watson took only 14 seconds to score the game winner for the Rockies, with a final score of 5-4. Other Rockies goals went to Patrick Lyster, Lawson, Braydon Barker, and Smith. Assists came from Watson, Barker, Melnyk (2), Smith, Lyster, Jayden Jefferson, and St. Jean. Goaltender Talon Walton made 39 saves.

Since October, the team has come under new leadership with Ryan Lawson taking over as captain.

“We’re clawing to get back into the playoff race, having to catch either Golden, Creston, or Kimberley,” Mr. Bidinger said. “We have to win every game we can.”

The Rockies have two home games this upcoming weekend on Friday, November 21st against the Spokane Braves, and Saturday, November 22nd against the Kelowna Chiefs. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.