If anyone would have predicted that the Columbia Valley Rockies would still be playing hockey in March at the beginning of this KIJHL season, they would have been called crazy.
But the Rockies made the Kootenay International Junior Ice Hockey league playoffs, and although the series has come to an end, the hometown team with heart left it all on the ice on Saturday, March 2 in front of a cheering home crowd.
“We’ve been in playoff mode since pretty much December,” said coach Wade Dubielewicz. “Every one of these players gave their all this season, but sometimes it just isn’t enough.”
The Rockies lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, losing the game 6-3 and the series 4-2 against the first place team in their division, the Fernie Ghostriders. The Rockies split the first two games in Fernie, then split the next two games at home, but things came unglued in Fernie on Friday, March 1. A parade to the penalty box allowed the Ghostriders to capitalize on 17 power play opportunities, taking the game 6-1.
Not to be rattled, the Rockies returned home on Saturday night and fought a valiant battle in front of a sell-out crowd. The game just wasn’t long enough for the Rockies to scrape their way back into it, which meant a locker room full of teary eyes and weary bodies as the staff and players reflected on the season.
“Basically the long and short of it is we now have people in place who really care about this team, these players and the community,” said general manager Ross Bidinger. “Wade really steered the ship and he has an unbelievable rapport with the kids, but the way all three brothers (Scott, Kirk and Wade Dubielewicz) compliment each other makes for a really strong coaching staff.”
Reflecting on the season behind and looking ahead to a new season, Dubielewicz said they have already started on recruiting new talent for next year’s Rockies team.
“This season turned around because of the time commitment everyone put in to getting better, and because the players could feel that we all really cared about the team,” he said. “Our job going forward is to carry this momentum through the summer recruiting and onto the ice next year.”
Rockies president Al Miller was overjoyed at the results the team achieved this season, and the incredibly well-attended home games during the short-lived playoff run.
“This was a tremendous year,” Miller said. “Our new coaching staff has produced an excellent product with the time that they had, and the fans, I think, will be able to see where we’re heading now. Next year is going to be fantastic.”
The Rockies finish the 2012-2013 season with 21 wins, 25 losses, six overtime losses and 48 points overall in the 52 games they played. That’s a far cry from the previous season, when the team only mustered three wins and seven points all year.