It may have taken 37 games to do it, but the Columbia Valley Rockies cemented a winning streak into their 2016-17 season with a victory over the Golden Rockets last Tuesday, January 17th at the Eddie, 3-2.
A winning streak is defined as a consecutive number of games won, beginning with the third consecutive victory (in other words the streak must be more than two back-to-back wins), and Rockies head coach Wade Dubielewicz said he wasn’t surprised to see that this was the first winning streak of the season.
“It has felt like we haven’t got a bounce or a break or had the consistency to put those number of wins together,” he said. “To be honest, even this past weekend we played some of our best hockey.”
Despite the victory, Tuesday’s game wasn’t controlled by a surging Rockies team. Instead, for two periods the Rockies sat back, allowing the Rockets to dictate the game after scoring two goals in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
“It definitely bothers me but it’s a bit of human nature,” Dubielewicz said of his team’s effort against a lower-seeded team. “You perceive an opponent to be standings wise below you, and even though those games mean so much, they seem to relax and I think that’s the result.”
Gradually, the Rockies began to fight their way back into the game, first cutting the lead in half in the second period before adding another pair of goals in the third period to take the victory 3-2.
Among the collective improvement the Rockies have made, Dubielewicz and defenceman Cole Richardson attribute the team’s recent success to the acquisition of forward Braydon Barker. In the five games he’s played since joining the Rockies, Barker has recorded 11 points, which would place him atop the league in terms of point per game.
“He’s a great kid, positive in the dressing room and easily could be put up there with the best players in the league,” Dubielewicz said. “Whenever you can add someone like that, especially what we’ve gone through as a group, it gives the kids a little light at the end of the tunnel and they seem to be running with it.”
Hoping to elongate the winning streak, the Rockies traveled to Castegar to face the Rebels Friday evening and brought the effort needed to come away with a victory, Dubielewicz said.
“Going into Castlegar on Friday, it was a pretty fast paced game in my opinion and their goaltender is the only reason they won that game,” he said. “We probably out-chanced them 2-1, did some really good things and probably deserved to win.”
Instead, the Rockies fell behind early 3-0 and were unable to mount a comeback, snapping their winning streak at three games with their 5-3 loss. Along with the effort though, Dubielewicz said he was impressed by the team’s effort to shutdown what he termed as one of the best lines in the KIJHL in Castlegar’s top line.
The following night the Rockies had a chance to rebound into the win-column and looked to be doing just that, outscoring the Beaver Valley Nitehawks 1-0 in the opening period while outshooting them 11-8.
The second period however demonstrated that as much as the Rockies have made improvements lately, inexperience and complacency can still lay dormant in the team.
“We gave up five and anytime you give up five in a period, it’s not a positive and went into the second intermission and we grabbed our lunch pails, trying to claw our way back into it, but Beaver Valley is a pretty strong team and we weren’t able to get the bounces we needed to get back in the game,” he said.
The Rockies brought a more consistent effort in the final 20 minutes, outshooting Beaver Valley 16-15, but were unable to rally against the Neil Murdoch Division’s top team and suffered the second loss-in-a-row 6-3.
The Rockies will have two chances to end their losing skid at home this week, starting with Friday night’s game against Kimberley before their Saturday night matchup against Golden. While Dubielewicz said he agrees that the Rockies have to take care of business Saturday against the visiting Rockets, and that Friday’s game against the second-place Dynamiters—with a steadily improving Rockies core—means a lot to the Rockies.
“Obviously for confidence wise, there’s no question it would be a big deal,” he said. “I personally really like the direction that we’ve headed in the last three weeks and obviously if we beat Kimberley on Friday it would be an upset but I don’t think it’s out of the question.”