Beyond the Blue Line

By Stephanie Stevens

It took grit, guts and hard work. And a cheering crowd didn’t hurt either. 

The first round of the Eddie Mountain Division series ended February 29 and the Columbia Valley Rockies took the series of seven games from the Kimberley Dynamiters in their own barn in game five. 

“The guys came out in this series and just out-competed Kimberley,” said head coach Tayler Sincennes.

“We played with desperation and that’s a good thing to have in a playoff series against a higher seeded team.”

Game four was played in the Eddie on February 27 and ended 3-1 for the Rockies. 

Opening up the scoring in the first was Kobe Mason (assists from Kyran Gromnisky and Bryan Kim) with a power play goal, followed in the second period by Luke Hamilton (assists from Kaelan Shelton and Wyatt Wurtz). The third period saw Jamieson Franz beat the Nitros’ goaltender with an assist from Kade Cochlan. Rockies netminder Nate Glenn once again stepped up and stopped 33 of 34 shots on goal. 

“We really adopted the underdog mentality and wanted to show everyone what we were capable of doing,” said Sincennes. “I think there was fuel added to the fire in that 9-3 game they beat us in a couple of weeks ago.”

Sidelined Rockies player Teo Fath adds his excitement behind the glass.

For what ended up being the final game in the Kimberley Arena the Rockies skated onto the ice towards a roaring crowd of Columbia Valley supporters, something Sincennes said gave the team an added boost. 

“Having the fans travel from Invermere to Kimberley was truly incredible … the guys fed off their energy and it was awesome to see the support we are getting from the community right now.”

With Glenn once again between the pipes, first period scoring was courtesy of a power play goal by Kim (assist from Shelton), with Franz stepping up again in the second (assists from Gage Sather and Oleg Bitus) and Carter Velker adding another (assists from Teo Fath and Gromnisky). The third period and final goal of the first round went to Bitus (assist from Velker and Sather) in a power play. 

 “I think we showed ourselves it doesn’t matter where we play with achieving three of four wins on the road,” said assistant coach Tanner Wit. “We played physical and set the tone early, not to mention we had great goaltending which isn’t that surprising.”

Wit echoed Sincennes’ sentiments about the energy and support the team gleaned from the fans that followed them on the road.

“(We are) excited to play Fernie as it will be a really energetic series and I’m excited to play in front of our very passionate crowd.” 

Associate coach Tucker Braund said he watched the team get better as the first round went on and is looking forward to the second round against the Fernie Ghostriders.

“We’ve made some adjustments and the guys have bought into how we want them to play which is really why we are getting success,” he said. “They are motivated right now. It’s good. We can play spoiler again with this match-up … I think our guys like the match-up with Fernie.”

While the Ghostriders led the Eddie Mountain Division in points in the regular season, the ‘Riders and Rockies are even with eight points each going into the second playoff round.

Games one and two will be played in Fernie this Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, with back-to-back home games on Monday the 11th and Tuesday the 12th. Short of one team taking all four first match-ups, the fifth game will be in Fernie Thursday the 14th, the sixth (if needed) will be home in the Eddie again and (if needed) the tie breaker in Fernie on Monday, March 18. 

Oleg Bitus (#10) looks ahead during play.