With back-to-back losses last weekend to the Fernie Ghostriders and the Kimberley Dynamiters, the Columbia Valley Rockies current losing streak has extended to six games. Unfortunately for them though, before the weekend’s competition even started, they suffered one of their biggest losses of the season.
Starting goaltender Connor McKay informed head coach Wade Dubielewicz and the coaching staff that he would be leaving the team permanently to pursue a schooling opportunity in Lethbridge, Alberta starting in the new year. Understandably, the move has put Dubielewicz and the Rockies in a troubling predicament.
“The timing of it is hard because it’s after December 1st and we had one card left, which we were planning on bringing a player in so we’re put in a situation where we had to use that card on a goalie; so on the one side it’s pretty disappointing to lose Connor and on the flip side he left us in a tight spot,” said Dubielewicz.
In 17 games played this season, McKay posted a 4-11 record with a 5.04 goals against average. Having been in net for the majority of the Rockies’ six wins on the season, Dubielewicz said the void left by McKay will be a tough one to fill for Will McCreight and newly acquired goalie Ben Kelsh throughout the back-half of the season.
“It was hard and to be really honest, I like Connor,” he said. “He’s one of my favourite kids I’ve ever had. Personality-wise I liked him as a goalie so having that bomb dropped was tough in a lot of ways, not only for our hockey team but personally.”
With the news of McKay’s departure looming, McCreight and the Rockies travelled to Fernie to take on the third place Ghostriders in hopes of stopping Columbia Valley’s four-game losing streak. The Rockies came hard out of the gate, peppering the Fernie goaltender with eight shots in the opening frame and took a 1-0 lead thanks to a power-play goal from Peter Matthews.
That early lead went to the Rockies’ heads, Dubielewicz said, as they came out flat in the second period, allowing Fernie to get back into the game and takeover. Their 14 shots in the second period were enough for the Ghostriders to tie the game 2-2 heading into the third before adding three more unanswered goals in the third to take the game by a final score of 5-2.
Dubielewicz said he was happy to see that the power-play finally came together to produce results after the team’s countless hours of work.
“If there was a massive positive out of this weekend it was that our power-play is starting to looking to have some chemistry and producing some offensive chances,” he said. “A little bit of chemistry definitely plays into it, but you know if I had the answer to what makes a good power play, I’d be a millionaire.”
The following night the Rockies faced a familiar opponent in the Dynamiters whom they’ve faced each of the last two weekends. Like those games though, Saturday’s action would similarly turn out for the worse for the Rockies after playing a “sluggish” first half of the game, Dubielewicz said.
After a scoreless first period, Kimberley capitalized on several defensive miscues in the second, scoring three unanswered goals before recording a fourth goal in the third period to finalize the Rockies’ 18th loss of the year.
Dubielewicz said Columbia Valley’s effort has been better as of late, but the team needs to improve its consistency if they hope to have any chance of finding better results on the scoreboard.
“If I had to pinpoint, I would say our puck management is inconsistent,” he said. “When we decide to keep the puck on the walls and put it in safe areas, we’re a really good team. When we don’t, we struggle to come out of our own zone and struggle to create offence.”
With 21 points separating the Rockies from the third-place Ghostriders and only five points separating them from the last place Golden Rockets, Dubielewicz said he understands the pressure for next weekend’s games against Kimberley on Friday and against Golden on Saturday.
“You’d hope so, but by no means are we safe to make the playoffs,” he said. “We have to continuously get better day to day and when those games against Golden come up, they’re huge and we have to make sure we’re ready to go and get a 60-minute consistent effort.”
By The Echo’s Monday press deadline, the Rockies will have already played against the Creston Thundercats, which occurred on Tuesday evening at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena.