Based on number of players alone, the Columbia Valley Rockies have spent the exhibition season as the Eddie Mountain Division’s underdogs.
“Right now we have nine forwards, five defenceman, a whack of goaltenders to choose from,” says head coach Marc Ward.
“The teams we’ve played have come with 20 guys on a roster and we’ve had 15, and two of those are goaltenders. One game we played with eight forwards and five defense, the other we played with nine forwards and four defenceman.”
Ward says the short bench “absolutely” played into the team’s 0-3 exhibition record.
The Rockies lost twice to the Golden Rockets, going 7-3 September 6 and 6-2 September 10. Between the two, they lost 8-5 to the Creston Valley Thundercats September 8.
However, by the time the Rockies’ regular season begins this Friday, the team should have the bench boost it’s looking for. Up to five more forwards will join the team this week, as well as another defensive player. Meanwhile, Ward will whittle down a goaltending roster than includes five potential net minders.
And so far, Ward is optimistic about his relatively young crop of recruits.
“The scores, in my mind, don’t depict how the game was played,” he says.
“We’ve been playing really well. We’re still learning how to play together, but we’re working hard, we’re disciplined and I think we’re doing a lot of things right.”
The Rockies’ first tilt against the Rockets saw Golden take an early lead, putting up three goals in the first.
Veteran players Phillip Verreault and Julian Fraser put the team within one goal in the second, though the Rockets pulled away again as the period wound to a close.
Though the Rockies managed to score once more, the Rockets were able to pull away in the third, increasing their lead with another three goals.
Thursday’s home-ice tilt with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats again saw the team come close to evening the score before falling back. Creston opened scoring in the first, padding their lead 2-0 four and a half minutes into the second.
The teams traded goals for the rest of the period, leaving the score 4-2 heading into the third — where the Cats were able to increase their lead substantially with another four goals.
For the final game of the exhibition season, however, the Rockies came hard out of the gate, putting up two goals in the first 10 minutes of play before the Rockets were able to answer back at the 15-minute mark.
“It was our best start out of the three games that we’ve played,” says Ward. “Out of that, I thought we had a great 45 minutes and just kind of fell short there.”
In the next two periods the Rockies’ weren’t able to capitalize on further scoring chances, while Golden went on to add another five goals to close out the night.
The Rockies will get another two tries against their Golden rivals this coming week — including Saturday’s home-ice opener — as regular season play begins. Ward says continuing to build the team, and staying positive regardless of final scores, will be the focus of those early matches.
“We’re focussing on the process and not the outcome,” he says. “And the players seem to buy into that right now. They see that we’re headed in the right direction.”