After breaking a four-game losing streak with their win last week over the Nelson Leafs, the Columbia Valley Rockies have once again embarked on a losing streak while finishing their games for the month of November.
The Rockies faced the dominant Creston Valley Thunder Cats in their opening game of the week — a team they owned an 0-3 record against along with a miserable -17 goal differential this season.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, their fate was no different on Tuesday night as the Thunder Cats exerted their dominance in a 6-2 victory. Despite the Rockies losing by four goals, head coach Wade Dubielewicz was adamant that his team brought forth a solid effort for 60 minutes.
“Creston is a good team and they move the puck well,” he said. “We probably took 10 shifts off in that game and every single one of them hurt us, but for the most part we hung in there with that team and I don’t think the score was conducive of how the game went.”
After a tough yet expected loss, the team went to the Kimberley Dynamiters with the hope of turning in a consistent effort in back-to-back games. But their effort against the second-place Kimberley Dynamiters manifested more as a team struggling to find its identity than a team clinging to the final playoff spot at the mid-point of the season.
“It was fragile,” Dubielewicz said of their effort Friday versus Kimberley. “It really comes back to having a bad start and having the fragile group that, when things go sideways, we stop working.”
It only took those two periods with Kimberley carrying a 5-1 lead for Dubielewicz to be forced to make the call to replace starting goaltender Connor McKay with backup Will McCreight. Despite McKay being second in the league in shots faced this season, Dubielewicz said Friday’s switch wasn’t the result of McKay being overworked.
“Being a former goalie, sometimes when that first shot on net doesn’t hit you like normal and you’re kind off your angle and you’re out of position, then the second puck goes in,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not your night.”
The switch proved to no avail as the Dynamiters piled on another three goals in the final frame to take a commanding 8-2 victory over the Rockies.
On Saturday night, the Rockies had the opportunity to end the losing slide on home ice in their first game of the season against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. The game stood as a litmus test of sorts against the Nitehawks who stood atop the Neil Murdoch Division with an 18-3-1 record on the season.
From the drop of the puck, the Rockies played like a team unaware of their struggles for most of the season. Despite falling behind 1-0 in the first period, Nicholas Wihak tied it up for the Rockies in the second as the two teams traded shot for shot throughout the period. Unfortunately for the Rockies, a pair of defensive miscues allowed the Nitehawks to take advantage to take a 2-1 lead heading into the final period.
Still, the young Rockies team demonstrated their unwillingness to give up as they peppered the Nitehawks’ goaltender Tallon Kramer with nine shots in the final frame. Breaking their momentum, however, was a poorly timed tripping penalty from defenceman Craig Ofner, which the Nitehawks capitalized on only seconds later to widen their lead to 3-1. Dubielewicz said he was unimpressed with the timing of the penalty from one of his top defenceman.
“If you’re going to take a penalty late in the third period, it better be saving a goal,” he said. “So, no, I’m not happy with that penalty. It’s a rough game out there and yeah, you’re going to lose your temper at times, but you have to find a way to hold that in, take a number and give the guy a good hit the next time you play against them.”
Ofner managed to score a goal of his own in the closing minutes of the game, but it proved too little too late as the Rockies lost their 15th game of the season. Dubielewicz said he was pleased with the team’s effort despite the overall result.
“This is the most physical team in the league, on our side at least, and we went punch for punch with them,” he said. “I’m actually proud of the effort. We just need to figure out how to have that consistent effort. Even when things aren’t going our way, we still have to move our feet and be working.”
The Rockies will have a break in their schedule before starting the final month of 2016, playing only one game on the road against the Kimberley Dynamiters. With three games in the next three weeks against Kimberley, Dubielewicz said the team will be getting familiar with the video room this week in hopes of avenging their loss last week.