High fives and boisterous cheering were the sounds in the Columbia Valley Rockies’ locker room on Saturday,December 17th for the first time in nearly a month after their 5-2 win over the Golden Rockets.
The Rockies’ last win came on November 18th against the Nelson Leafs before embarking on a nine-game losing streak. That said, their 5-2 win over Golden was not the team’s best effort, said head coach Wade Dubielewicz.
“Honestly, I don’t even care at this point,” he said, while appreciating the fact that the streak is over and the team earned a victory. “That’s the most important thing.”
The victory came just one day after a 6-3 loss to the Kimberley Dynamiters on Friday, December 16th; a game that Dubielewicz said he thought the team deserved to win.
“Of any game this year, we deserved better,” he said, noting that the Rockies controlled the bulk of the game prior to the Dynamiters’ second goal on the power play mid-way through the second period. “I think that kind of took the wind out of our sails and it was odd — in the third period we started playing with an element of risk that we didn’t need.”
From there, the Dynamiters added four more goals to earn the victory over the Rockies. Recently acquired goaltender Ben Kelsh played his first game in a Rockies’ uniform against Kimberley, earning the praise of Dubielewicz.
“He competed really hard and again a lot of the goals (Kimberley) scored, where our defenceman had time, had an easy play up the wall, decided to go up the middle and hit a stick, and a guy got a quick little break away,” he said. “(Kelsh) is a worker and a workhorse so he’s never going to let a goal in for a lack of work.”
Despite originally wanting to start Will McCreight in Saturday night’s game, Dubielewicz said he went with his gut and decided to go with Kelsh for a second night in a row.
He decision was rewarded early in Saturday’s action with a goal from defenceman Cole Richardson six minutes into the game before Fraser McMann added another on the power play to take a quick 2-0 lead through 20minutes.
The Rockies were able to carry that momentum into the second period, adding two more goals to take a commanding 4-0 lead entering the third period. Many within the packed Eddie Mountain arena believed the game was over, but due to injuries to several players, the Rockies’ bench was down to just 10 forwards and five defence to start the third.
It only took seven minutes for the Rockets to expose the Rockies’ shortchanged bench, scoring two goals within four minutes to cut the Rockies’ lead in half. Despite the comeback, Dubielewicz said the team hadn’t planned to change its strategy entering the final frame.
“We had to be smart and manage our energy somewhat so I wouldn’t say we changed, but we definitely chatted about our decision-making with the puck,” he said.
Lucky for the Rockies, a five-minute penalty to Rockets’ defenceman Austin Pultz with seven minutes left put ahole in any plans for Golden coming through on its comeback.
With five games remaining between the two teams and six points separating the two for the final playoff position, Dubielewicz said he understands the importance of each victory over the Rockets.
“It’s massive and I think the reason it’s even bigger is because they probably deserved better tonight. That’s got to be a pretty sad bus ride home even though they’re going into the Christmas break because I feel like they probably feel like we did last night coming home (against Kimberley).”
For now, the Rockies will have a break until December 30th when they travel to Golden for the first part of a home-and-home versus the Rockets.