Wins have been tough to come by for the Columbia Valley Rockies this season, and the Rockies game against the Chase Heat Friday, January 20 was a great opportunity to add another tally to the wins column.
Both teams battled hard in what was a pretty even first period, but the Rockies may have been battling a little too hard as they gave up the first penalty just 17 seconds into the game.
This was to be a critical and reoccurring theme as the game went on, and after another penalty midway through the period the Heat struck first when a hard slapper from the point eluded Rockies goalie Scott Legault.
The Heat tacked on another at the end of the period on a two-on-one and the Rockies headed into the break trailing 2-0.
The Rockies opened the second playing with some extra intensity, and shortly after, forward Jayson Cannell was hauled down on his way to the net on a breakaway. The referees huddled for quite some time, but eventually gave the fans what they wanted to see, and one of the most exciting plays in hockey: the penalty shot.
Cannell didn’t disappoint on the penalty shot, as he looked to shoot the whole way down the ice and promptly buried a clean snapshot past the Chase goaltender as fans and players held their breaths.
This seemed to ignite the rest of the Rockies squad, as they picked up their play and soon forced another Chase penalty with an aggressive forecheck.
The resulting powerplay saw the Rockies execute some brilliant puck possession, making crisp passes to eventually set up forward Joe Colborne at the side of the net to tie the game at two goals apiece.
Legault also played strong in the second period after a bit of a shaky first, and would need to be on his game as the frame drew to a close.
Two late Rockies penalties meant that the Heat had a two-man advantage for the last minute and a half, but Legault turned away all the shots he faced to set up a tense third period with the score still tied.
The Heat came out flying in the final period, laying some big hits and taking lots of shots, but the Rockies weathered the storm, and then shortly after took the lead, when a slick pass from the corner by Ryan Henderson found Damon Raven in front of the net for his fourth goal of the year. This put the Rockies up 3-2 with about seven minutes remaining.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, that’s when some of the aggressive play (and questionable reffing) came back to haunt them, as with six and a half minutes remaining they took a five-minute major penalty while already shorthanded.
The Rockies managed to hold off the Heat for the two-man advantage thanks to some strong play from defenceman Jordan Stimpson, but soon after the Heat drew even on a wrist shot from the point that Legault may have never seen until it was too late.
That goal hurt, but when the Heat again came streaming down the ice with just over two minutes left and put a slapshot past Legault to take the lead, the Rockies were pretty much broken.
After the end of the penalty the Rockies had just a minute to try and again draw even, but could not muster up another goal and lost the game by a score of 4-3.
“It was an interesting game,” Rockies coach Marc Ward said. “We didn’t get the bounces, and we took a lot of penalties — I didn’t exactly think all of them were penalties — but I thought we had really good goaltending, it was just unfortunate to be shorthanded for the last five minutes and fifty seconds.”
The next night saw the Rockies host the high-scoring Nelson Leafs, where they fell by a score of 4-1.
The Leafs led 2-0 after a first period that actually saw the Rockies out-shoot their opponents 11-7, but the Rockies managed only six shots in the final two frames as the Leafs cracked down on defence.
“I thought we worked hard and we battled… the effort was there,” Ward said.
“The guys have developed a lot, and I think we’ve done a really good job developing these guys as hockey players and people — they’ve really put an honest effort into learning our systems and learning how to play on both sides of the puck. It’s been a great year for development on that side for those guys, but it’s still pretty rough not getting as many wins as we hoped.”
Cody Stephenson had the lone goal for the Rockies, who fell to 3-39-0-1 for the season with only nine games remaining this year.
Next, the Rockies travel to Fernie on January 27 to take on the Ghostriders, before they host the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Friday, February 3.