While the Columbia Valley Rockies have been on the losing end of plenty of shutouts this season — five, to be exact — they hadn’t yet shut out an opponent 32 games into the season. That all changed on Friday, December 14 against the Kimberley Dynamiters when rookie goalie Stewart Pratt stopped 30 shots to backstop the Rockies to a 1-0 victory on home ice.
“It was a team effort,” coach Ross Bidinger said. “I mean obviously Pratt played well but we were playing good defensively.”
The Rockies were sporting a new look roster heading into the game against Kimberely, having acquired high-scoring forward Brendan Burge from the Fernie Ghostriders prior to the Rockies 4-2 loss to Golden on December 11. Burge is one of the top point-getters in the league, having amassed 20 goals and 19 assists in just 23 games with the Ghostriders this season, averaging over a point and a half per game. He hasn’t slowed his torrid scoring pace since joining the Rockies either, scoring two goals against Golden in his first game on December 11, and following that up with the opening goal of the shutout win against Kimberley on December 14 and an assist against Creston on December 15. With three goals and an assist in his first three games with club, Burge was second in the league in goals with 23, and fourth in points with 43 at press deadline, despite having played considerably less games than some of his contemporaries.
“(Burge brings) some skill, he’s a leader,” Bidinger said. “He’s just good all-around.”
After Burge’s first period goal against Kimberley just over a minute into the game, the Rockies consistently controlled the pace of play as the period went on, and outshot the Dynamiters 14-7 through the first 20 minutes. Heading into the second period, Pratt was playing lights out, and made no better save than on a two-on-one break by Kimberley midway through the period. Pratt would also stop several attempts on the ensuing rebound, and the Rockies clung to their 1-0 lead heading into the third period despite the Dynamiters beginning to find their offensive spark.
The Rockies definitely opened the final period on the back foot, allowing several quality chances in the opening minutes. Luckily for them, Pratt would bail them out time and again as the period progressed, although he’ll probably want to get his goalposts a thank-you card after Kimberley had several shots ring off the uprights. With eight minutes remaining Pratt could be seen nervously glancing up at the scoreboard, but on this night everything would bounce the Rockies way. A couple minutes after having yet another shot ring off the iron, Kimberley would get their best chance to equalize on a breakaway, but the Dynamiter skater would lose his footing, the puck, and consequently the game as the Rockies won by a final score of 1-0.
“We really wanted those two points,” Bidinger said. “We put a solid effort in… and that was pretty much the key to it.”
The Rockies would have a golden opportunity to overtake the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the standings when they played in Creston the very next night (December 15), and with a 4-1 victory the Rockies took sole possession of fourth place in the division. Four different Rockies players scored in the victory, and goalie Stewart Pratt had another outstanding night in net stopping 25 of 26 shots.
The Rockies would next play the Fernie Ghostriders in Invermere on December 18. The score was not available by press deadline. The Rockies final game before the Christmas break will be against the division-leading Golden Rockets, when they visit the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena on Friday, December 21.