Hoping to redeem themselves after losing both the prior weekend’s games, the Columbia Valley Rockies embarked on their first weekend road trip of the season, playing in Spokane and Grand Forks on Friday (September 30th) and Saturday (October 1st) nights.
Unfortunately, despite taking several steps forward, said coach Wade Dubielewicz, they were unable to come home with more than a single point thanks to an overtime loss to the Braves on Friday night.
“I actually am pretty happy,” Dubielewicz said afterward. “We took some pretty big steps. Friday in Spokane, we definitely carried the play and should have won for the most part, but just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net with the amount of chances we were getting.”
The Rockies managed to take a lead twice on the Braves — 1-0 and 2-1 — but allowed the Braves to get back into the game until the Rockies tied up the game on a goal from Riley Knott midway through the third period. In overtime, it was the Braves’ Trail Thompson who ended the Rockies’ night on their eighth shot of the extra frame to take the game by a final score of 4-3.
Dubielewicz attributes this characteristic of allowing teams to get back into games to a young team still searching for its identity.
“We’re not sure where we are yet,” he said. “You want to preach that killer instinct and it’s basically through hard work and determination while bearing down. That’s not something you gain overnight; it’s something that has to be pounded into guys.”
The following night, the Rockies made their way back to Canada to face off against the Grand Forks Border Bruins who are sitting in first place with a 5-2-1 record on the season thus far.
After having a strong first period outshooting the Bruins 13-10, several untimely penalties allowed the game to get out of the Rockies reach with the Bruins scoring four unanswered power play goals. Throughout the game, the Bruins power play took advantage of the Rockies penalties going five-for-six with the man advantage. It’s a weakness Dubielewicz said the Rockies will look to work on this week in practice.
“We’re struggling, we’re really struggling,” he said of his special teams’ play. “It’s going to be a big focus this week to just simplify it and try to get some pucks on net with traffic and out-compete teams around that grade A scoring area.”
The Rockies were able to add two goals of their own, from Colby Sherlock and Sam Milner, but fell by a final score of 7-2. With their two goals on the night, the Rockies now have just 15 on the season in seven games. Their 21-goal differential — goals for minus goals against — ranks second last in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), ahead of only the Sicamous Eagles.
Still, with several tight games that could have gone either way this season, Dubielewicz said he believes in his team.
“Definitely when we play Creston and Grand Forks, we’ve been exposed,” he said. “We’ve beat Fernie and honestly in my opinion we should have beat Spokane twice, but that’s not the case. I’ll tell you one thing is that we are taking steps in the right direction more or less. I believe that we’re going to have a really good team, it’s just a matter of keep making those steps and get some more wins under our belt so more confidence starts to grow.”
The Rockies will travel north this week to face off against their rival Golden Rockets on Friday before making the return home Saturday evening to face Kimberley at the Eddie with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Both matchups will be the first the teams have played against one another in the 2016-17 regular season.