After a much-needed Christmas break, the Columbia Valley Rockies hit the ice for their first game in nearly three weeks when they travelled to Washington to take on the Spokane Braves on Saturday, January 7.
In what had to be one of the chippiest games of the season for either team, the two squads combined for an astonishing 30 penalties in a 6-2 loss for the Rockies.
Forward Orri Haman scored his fourth goal of the season in the second period against his former team, from which he was acquired early in the season, while forward Todd Sykes added a power play marker at the end of the third for his tenth of the year.
The Rockies gave up 57 shots in the loss and committed 16 penalties en-route to allowing three power play goals. Newly acquired goaltender Scott Legault played well in the loss, making 51 saves on 57 shots.
The schedule-makers certainly didn’t do the Rockies any favours over the weekend. After an evening in Washington, the Rockies made a long drive back to Beaver Valley to play the league-leading Nitehawks at 1 p.m. the following day.
The Nitehawks had lost only seven games all season heading into this one, and once again showed why they are likely one of the favourites to win it all this year as they dominated the Rockies 11-2.
“Our travel schedule was pretty tight and we didn’t have a whole lot of rest,” coach Marc Ward said.
“For the most part I think it had to do with they’re a very good team, they moved the puck well and we weren’t really up to the challenge.”
To their credit, the Rockies played well in the first period, only facing a 2-1 deficit headed into the second.
The Nitehawks opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal a little over a minute into the game, but the Rockies responded when forward Josh Haley scored his fifth goal of the season and second with the Rockies, drawing assists from Jayson Cannell and Ryan Henderson.
However, the Nitehawks followed that up with their first of three power play goals for the game when the high scoring trio of Craig Martin, Chris Derochie and Ryan Edwards connected on Martin’s 32nd goal of the season.
The three forwards are all in the top 10 in the league in scoring, with Edwards narrowly leading the scoring race with 72 points for the year.
The second period was not a pleasant one for the Rockies, as they allowed five goals on 18 shots.
The Rockies only dressed 13 skaters to the Nitehawks 17, no doubt contributing to the 7-1 deficit the Rockies faced following the second period.
The Rockies opened the third on a high note when Cannell scored midway through the frame, but four more goals from the Nitehawks put this one to bed.
The Rockies again allowed in excess of 50 shots in the loss, which has been a sore point for coach Ward for much of the season.
“We have to be more aware on the defensive end,” Ward said. “We need to get ourselves in better positions with our bodies and sticks—too many times we got caught too deep, and when I say too deep I mean right on top of our goalie.”
Next, the Rockies take on old foe Kimberley on January 11. The Nitros themselves are coming off of a crushing 13-3 loss to the Revelstoke Grizzlies January 8.
The Rockies don’t play at home until Friday, January 13, when they get a chance for revenge against the Spokane Braves at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena.
After that, it’s back on the road for a trip to Creston to play the Thundercats for the first time since the Rockies posted a double overtime win against them in early December.