A win and a loss each for the Columbia Valley Rockies and Golden Rockets has kicked the post-season can further down the road, after a weekend that was expected to decide which team made the playoffs became a stalemate.
The final regular season game at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena happened on Friday, February 7th, when a packed house filled the arena as the Rockies were looking to leap-frog the Rockets in the standings with a win.
Golden was first on the board after scoring midway through the first, but a pair of goals by Ryan Henderson and Racey Big Snake gave the Rockies the lead before the first buzzer – Columbia Valley assists came from Doan Smith, Jerome Thorne, Matt Houston, and Stephen Pratt. The Rockies had just six shots in the period.
Strong defensive efforts from both teams minimized scoring opportunities in the second. The period almost ended with the score unchanged, but a shorthanded Rockets interception by Ian Desrosier saw his slap shot beat goaltender Stephen Pratt with 22 seconds to go, tying the game at two.
More conservative play in the third period saw each team limit the others’ scoring chances.
As the 60 minutes of regulation were winding down, overtime seemed imminent, but Golden managed to net another late period goal with 1:22 to go and win the game 3 – 2 in regulation.
“We got caught with our defence pinching,” said general manager Ross Bidinger.
Pratt blocked 28 shots on the night, athe Rockies were outshot 31 to 15.
The Rockies didn’t have to mourn Friday’s loss for long, as they had the chance to cancel it out during Saturday’s game at the Golden Arena.
The Rockets were again first to score, lighting the lamp on the power play after just three minutes of play.
But with help from Thorne and Braden Farge, Tyson Kapty scored to tie the game at one before the opening period drew to a close.
A goal by Doan Smith allowed the Rockies to take the lead, with help from Nigel Swab and Jerome Thorne. That lead didn’t last long, as Golden scored three unanswered goals to end the period with a 4 –2 lead.
With their playoff hopes on the line, the Rockies were hungry for a win.
“Our backs were against the wall – we went into the third 4 – 2,” Mr. Bidinger said. “We lose that and we’re definitely out of the playoffs.”
Two minutes after the third period puck drop, Henderson scored with a pass from Thorne. A minute later Farge netted the game-tying goal.
“[Bradly] Palumbo made a really nice extra effort to tip the puck ahead to Farge who scored on a breakaway,” said Mr. Bidinger.
The Rockies woke up the Rockets by tying it at four, but allowing the game to head into overtime would give Golden a valuable point in the standings. So Smith scored his second of the game, with help from Mitch Rosko, to take a 5 – 4 lead. The final seven minutes of play were exhausted with no more scoring and the Rockies won their first game since December 10th, snapping a 13-game losing streak.
Columbia Valley didn’t register many shots, but they made them count – the Rockies scored on five of the 11 shots they took.
Pratt stopped 31 shots by the Rockets on Saturday.
“Thorne and Smitty had a good game, and Pratt played well in goal,” Mr. Bidinger said.
After a loss to Fernie on Sunday night, the Rockets now have three games remaining in the season – the same as the Rockies. The two teams will meet again in Golden on Friday, February 21st. The Rocket are playing two games against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats before taking on Columbia Valley, while the Rockies have a game against Fernie next Sunday, and take on the Thunder Cats for the season finale on Saturday, February 22nd.
“We’re going to make sure guys are ready so that we go at it with a good jump,” said Mr. Bidinger.