It took the Columbia Valley Rockies until December of last season to get their second win, but after back-to-back victories over the Golden Rockets this past weekend, the Rockies are undefeated and confidence is running high in Invermere.
“Last year it was tough to gain confidence when the scores are that lopsided, or you just keep losing,” head coach and general manager Marc Ward said. “Now that we’ve got those first wins they’re hungry for it, and they know that if they keep playing a certain way and doing the little things right, they’re going to feel that way more often.”
The atmosphere was electric inside the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena on Saturday (September 15) night and, after an even first period, the Rockies dominated en-route to a 6-1 win over division rivals Golden Rockets.
The Rockies started the game on a physical note, finishing checks with authority and doing their best to bully the visiting Rockets, and after an early powerplay the Rockies kept up the pressure when rookie forward James Price scored his second goal of the season in as many nights on an easy tap-in at the side of the net. This served to rev up the partisan crowd into a near frenzy, but amid the celebration the Rockies seemed to lose some of their focus, as under a minute later the Rockets responded when a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle beat Rockies goaltender and Invermere native Brody Nelson to even the score. The visiting Rockets would go on to outshoot the Rockies 10-7 in the first period as play settled down, but netminder Nelson stood tall and the Rockies penalty kill was excellent, denying three separate Golden powerplays to keep the score knotted up heading into the first intermission.
“I think we played pretty good,” forward Damon Raven said. “We got pucks deep… crashed and banged and played our game.”
The Rockies opened the second frame on the short end of a 5 on 3 powerplay, but Nelson would make several of his 31 saves on the night to keep the score tied, and his team responded when pushing back up the ice second-year forward Cody Stephenson scored his first goal of the season to give the Rockies a 2-1 advantage.
Stephenson nearly cost his team shortly after when he took a delay of game penalty by lifting the puck over the boards in the defensive zone, but some more outstanding goaltending by Nelson and some strong play on the penalty kill to constantly frustrate the Rockets attack maintained the Rockies lead, and the floodgates opened not long after. Rookie Jake Fardoe scored on a powerplay and Ryan Henderson scored his third goal of the season with just 18 seconds remaining in the period and the Rockies looked to be well on their way to their second win of the season holding a 4-1 lead entering the final period of play.
“We’re playing a really simple game, and our top guys are following the gameplan,” Ward said. “The effort was there, finishing checks, hard on the backcheck and hard on the forecheck, and obviously putting the puck in the net is key.”
While the Rockets still had a chance to make a heroic comeback when the third period opened, the Rockies quickly put any such ideas to rest with two goals in the first five minutes. The rest of the game was a mere formality at this point with the Rockies leading 6-1, and they cruised the rest of the way to claim their second consecutive win to start the season.
“(We played) really well,” Ward said. “We built off of last night and just kept moving forward, which was really good to see.”
The Rockies opened the 2012-2013 campaign against Golden the night before, on Friday September 14, and in a nailbiter narrowly defeated the Rockets by a final score of 6-5. Forward Ryan Henderson had two goals and rookie James Price had three points on a night that saw the Rockies trail 5-3 with only eight minutes remaining in the third period. Late game heroics by Price and Henderson and a game-winning goal scored by rookie Stephen Pratt with three minutes left propelled the Rockies to victory in their season opener.