The Columbia Valley Rockies faced some high-powered competition this weekend, and when the dust had settled the Rockies showed that they can hang with the best teams in the league on any given night.
“They can compete with them for sure, there’s no doubt, if they play a simple, hardworking game,” head coach Ross Bidinger said.
The Rockies were coming off four days of rest since taking the league-leading Nelson Leafs to overtime on November 18, and would face another high-powered squad in the Fernie Ghostriders Friday, November 23 in Fernie. After a scoreless first period that saw the Rockies outshot 11-4 , Rockies rookie forward Dustin Boone would break the deadlock with his fifth goal of of the season late in the second period. Fernie tied it up before the period was over, but the Rockies again took the lead as the third period opened when forwards Jerome Thorne and James Price combined to make the score 2-1 with 18 minutes remaining. Rockies goalie Stewart Pratt had his second straight strong start in net making 42 saves, but he couldn’t stop the Ghostriders from equalizing in the third period, and the Rockies would head to overtime for the second game in a row. This time, however, forward Ryan Henderson made sure that there would be a different result than the game before, scoring the overtime winner with just over a minute left to give the Rockies the victory.
“We played really good,” Bidinger said. “Goaltending was good, the forwards played an inspired game and the defence played a tough game.”
The Rockies had little rest before they took on the Beaver Valley Nitehawks the very next night on Saturday November 24, and a lack of concentration in the first period dug them into an early hole. While the Rockies played the aggressor early, Beaver Valley responded by scoring three goals in less than a minute midway through the period. The shellshocked Rockies managed to get a goal back before the end of the period when Henderson put home his ninth goal of the season on a rebound in front of the net, but the Rockies still faced an uphill battle down 3-1 heading into the second period.
“We seem to collapse at certain times,” Bidinger said. “The mentality of the kids, they get down and when that happens we pretty much collapse, which is exactly what happened against Beaver Valley.”
The second period opened pretty even for both teams, but it wouldn’t take long for the Nitehawks to add to their lead. Six minutes into the frame Beaver Valley forward Kurt Black scored his second of the game past netminder Brody Nelson, and he completed the hat trick several minutes later on the powerplay to give the Nitehawks a 5-1 lead heading into the final period. The Rockies would make a game of it in the third thanks to goals by Henderson and Josh Haley, but it proved too little too late and the Rockies lost by a final score of 5-3.
“It’s just mental preparation and mental toughness of the kids, trying to keep everybody positive” Bidinger said. “When guys get down and negative, negative breeds negative, and if we can keep positive as a team and not focus on what’s behind us — focus on what what we can change the next shift.”
Through 27 games, the Rockies sit on 18 points, four points back of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats for fourth in the Eddie Mountain division. The Rockies next host the Kelowna Chiefs on Friday, November 30 in Invermere.