Submitted by Mark Teterenko
The Rockies had themselves quite the week scheduled to go up against the first place Nelson Leafs (Neil Murdoch Division) on Friday, Jan. 21 before facing another first placed team in the Kimberley Dynamiters (Eddie Mountain Division) on Saturday, Jan. 22.
Player families were also visiting for this week’s matchups, and although some team/family activities had to be canceled due to provincial guidelines/restrictions, the players still took in the opportunity to see and be around their families for the weekend. Coach Briar McNaney commented on having families in town for the weekend: “I think the families being in town was a good thing for the players. For a lot of them, this is their first time living away from home, so it must have been a relief for some. We felt that [the weekend] went well and the families looked like they enjoyed it.”
Friday’s game against Nelson was a battle. After going down 1-0 after the first period, Nelson came out strong with a second goal just four minutes into the second period. Defenceman Dylan Malarchuk (19) cut the Leafs lead in half just after the six minute mark, but Nelson continued to put pucks on net as they scored twice more before the 15 minute mark to put them up 4-1. Not in any place to back down, the Rockies continued to grind away and at the 16:28 mark of the second period, Kaelan Shelton (21) scored to bring the Rockies back within two before the third period. Period number three started off great for the Rockies as Reed Sparrow (7) was able to put one by the Nelson goaltender at the 2:21 mark, but sadly the comeback was cut short after that. The Leafs pulled away in the third scoring twice more before the final buzzer sounded and handed the Rockies only their second loss in the last 10 games. Rockies goaltender Grady Nicholas (33) saved 51 of 57 shots in the 6-3 loss.
“I feel that we played well below our expectations/standards on Friday” said Coach Briar McNaney. “Credit to Nelson, they brought a lot of energy especially at the start of the game, but we just didn’t have “it” on Friday night. Whether that was due to facing a team that we haven’t played in a while (and a very good team at that), having parents in town, outside distractions, changing pre-game routines, etc. I don’t know, but we let ourselves down.”
The very next day, the Rockies had the opportunity to bounce right back into the win column against Kimberley but they knew it wouldn’t be easy. The Dynamiters were first to get on the scoresheet during Saturday’s game.
Nevertheless, their tally was quickly matched with our own as Kaelan Shelton (21) tied it up at 14:36 of the first period. Kimberley then went on to score one more goal late in the first period before both teams headed to the dressing rooms for the first intermission. After putting 24 shots on net, the Rockies were finally able to get another goal past the Dynamiters goaltender thanks to Kayde Kinaschuk (29), and just like that the game was tied at 2. The third period had chances going both ways before the Rockies’ Colby Phillips (14) was able to break the deadlock at 9:11 of the third period to put them up 3-2. Goaltender Scott Thompson (30) and the rest of the team would hold off the Dynamiters from scoring for the rest of the game and ultimately took the win 3-2.
“Saturday vs Kimberley felt a lot more back to normal” said McNaney. “You could tell the players’ minds were back in hockey mode, and it showed in our play. The win felt pretty good obviously against another great team, but especially in front of the parents and fans. We haven’t lost many games this year so a win against a good team right after a loss is a good trait to have for a team coming into the playoffs.”
As of January 24th, the Columbia Valley Rockies sit second in the division with a 22-8-2-1 record good for 47 points.
Week 16 starts early on Tuesday, Jan. 26 as the Rockies travel to Golden to play the Rockets at 7:30 p.m. The weekend then brings the Rockies home to play the Fernie Ghostriders at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday Jan. 29 before having a rematch against them on a rare Sunday morning game at 10:30 a.m.