By Stephanie Stevens

The 2024 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff season has begun, and the Columbia Valley Rockies came through the gate ready to play.

The first round of the Eddie Mountain Division playoffs has the Rockies squaring off with the  Kimberley Dynamiters, a team they have struggled with this season, particularly in away games. But that streak ended with the first game on Friday, Feb 23 with a 3-2 overtime win in the Kimberley Arena.

The Nitros were up by two after the first two periods but the Rockies stepped it up and Gage Sather started off the third with an unassisted goal, followed a few minutes later by Oleg Bitus (assists from Paddy Donahue and Kaelan Shelton) to tie the game. 

Teo Fath scored the winning overtime goal (assists from Wyatt Wurtz and Carter Velker), but the game ended with a brouhaha that resulted in a bench game misconduct for the Rockies and a three-game suspension for Dynamiter Justin Sommer. 

“Our players came off the bench to celebrate the goal but we are supposed to keep on the bench until the other team clears or the ref says go,” explained associate coach Tucker Braund. 

The early celebration was cut short when Sommer cross-checked Shelton in the back of the head which sparked the short-lived brawl. 

Head coach Tayler Sincennes received a one-game suspension and sat out the Saturday game, also in Kimberley. 

PHOTO STEPHANIE STEVENS

While their head coach was on the bench, Braund and assistant coach Tanner Wit led the boys into a second playoff victory, this time a 1-0 shutout. The lone goal was courtesy of Bryan Kim (assists from Jamieson Franz and Ellis Mcgeough). 

“We did a really good job in games one and two going on the road and simplifying our games which is exactly how we need to play,” said Sincennes. “In game three there were a few moments where we got away from that and it cost us the game.” 

Game three was home in Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena and ended in a 4-3 loss for the Rockies but despite that it was a fast-paced tilt that entertained an appreciative crowd. 

Kobe Mason put the puck in the net in the first (assists from Shelton and Bitus) and then again in the second (assists from Kyran Gromnisky and Kade Cochlan). Mcgeough brought in a third in the third (assist from Johnny Lozeman) but Kimberley potted one more late in the third to take the game. 

“Our penalty kill throughout the series has been very good and our power play is struggling but generated some more good opportunities in game three,” said Sincennes. 

Netminder Nate Glenn was between the pipes for all three games and stood on his head, stopping 80 of 86 shots on goal.

PHOTO STEPHANIE STEVENS

PHOTO STEPHANIE STEVENS