Two new Columbia Valley Rockies pick-ups are already making their presence felt, as rookie forwards Jeremy Julian and Byron Sam both scored in their debut to help lead the team to a 5-3 win over the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Friday, November 9.
“It’s great, but we’re already thinking of tomorrow night,” assistant coach Scott Dubielewicz said after the game.
Mired in the depths of a four-game losing streak coming into the game, the Rockies badly needed a win to keep pace in the standings. Through 20 games the team found itself in last place in the division, however a win over the fourth place Thunder Cats, the Rockies could catapult themselves within a point of overtaking their rivals from Creston. With that in mind, the two teams squared off in an important game for both clubs on Friday night, and the action was tense from the start. Play was decidedly even in the early going with the teams trading scoring opportunities, but the Thunder Cats would strike first on the powerplay just under six minutes into the game to take a 1-0 lead. The Rockies would respond with a powerplay of their own, and after Rockies netminder Brody Nelson made a nifty blocker save to deny the Thunder Cats a shorthanded goal, the Rockies determinedly pushed back up ice, where the aforementioned Sam would take a pass from forward Racey Red Crow and snap home his first goal of the season, in his first game with the club.
“We got a couple new guys in, and they brought some grit,” Dubielewicz said. “It changes the look of our team just that little bit, and it gives us a little more confidence and depth.”
The second period would take a decidedly physical tone early, punctuated when Rockies defenceman Jordan Stimpson took an early fighting major. Unfortunately for the Rockies, Stimpson would also take two minor penalties on the same play for roughing and the instigator, giving Creston an extended powerplay just three minutes into the frame. Looking back, Stimpson may well take the same penalties again if he could, because the Rockies would score not one, but two shorthanded goals over the next three minutes. Rockies forwards Dustin Boone and Jerome Thorne would combine for a perfect two on one goal past a stretching Creston goalie, and then minutes later the two would combine to score their second shorthanded goal of the period after a Thunder Cats defenceman fell and lost the puck near his own blueline. It wasn’t all good news for the Rockies, as in between tallies the Thunder Cats managed a powerplay goal of their own, but the Rockies looked to be in control as the period drew to a close. They nearly scored again when a Creston player appeared to score on his own net, but the goal was immediately waved off, and shortly after, with just 30 seconds left in the frame Creston managed to jam the puck past Nelson on a broken play to tie the game back up at 3-3.
“(The gameplan) was the same as it is every night, we’re just trying to outwork the other team,” Dubielewicz said.
The two teams were chomping at the bit to start the third period, but some Creston aggression seemed to get the better of them and they ended up shorthanded just 36 seconds into the period. This would mark the beginning of the end for the Thunder Cats, as after Rockies forward Julian scored his first of the season in his first game it wouldn’t take long for the Rockies to double up on their lead. Defenceman Brendan Sage would let a wrist shot go from the point that would elude the beleaguered Creston goalie, and with a 5-3 lead the Rockies would coast the rest of the way to their seventh win of the season.
“They started to lose composure, we were getting under their skin,” Dubielewicz said. “They started to lose focus… we just had to keep playing the way we were playing, and then we got a break.”
While the win would move the Rockies within a point of fourth place in the division, the Rockies would play the same Thunder Cats the very next night (November 10) in the back end of a home-and-home. The Rockies would take an early lead on a goal from forward Tye Moses, but were unable to capitalize on seven Creston minor penalties, instead giving up a shorthanded goal to tie the game heading into the second period. There would be no looking back for Creston, and they would score four unanswered goals en-route to a 5-2 win.
The Rockies would next host the Kimberley Dynamiters on Tuesday, November 13. The score was not available by press time. The Rockies next game falls on Saturday, November 17, when they host the Summerland Steam at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena in Invermere at 7:30 p.m.