On Thursday night, Tanner Wit was the captain of the struggling Golden Rockets. By the next morning, he was a member of the first-place Kimberley Dynamiters who were set for a divisional matchup with…the Golden Rockets.
It was an odd situation for the Calgary native, having spent the past two seasons and the entirety of his KIJHL career with the Rockets.
Wit earned an assist and his new club took a close decision against the last place Rockets, prevailing 6-4 in front of 166 fans at the Golden Arena.
“The fact I get to play here now is just a blessing…this might be my last year of hockey so I kind of want to go out with a bang and unfortunately Golden just wasn’t the place to pursue that. But this town’s been nothing but good to me,” Wit said.
While he practiced all week with the Rockets, he said it wasn’t difficult for him to face his former teammates less than 24 hours after being traded, such is the nature of hockey at any level.
“Hockey’s kind of a game where you can be best friends with someone and as soon as you touch the ice you turn into sworn enemies. But they’re a good group of guys and I respect each and every one of them.”
Kimberley never trailed throughout the contest, jumping out to a two-goal lead midway through the first.
Later in the period, Jake Gudjonson notched the 7th goal of his rookie campaign to narrow the gap and give the Rockets some momentum heading into the second.
With 12:25 left to play in the period, Jared Marchi scored the first of three power play goals for the Dynamiters to restore a two-goal lead for the visitors. The Nitros power play ended up going 3 for 6, giving Golden fits.
“They run the same play and we talked about it, showed some things on the bench, but our guys didn’t make the adjustment well enough,” said head coach Jason Stephens.
Another theme for the night was the Rockets’ ability to keep the Dynamiters within arm’s reach. Wesley Howerton scored just 15 seconds after Marchi’s tally, bringing the Rockets back within a goal.
After another Dynamiters power play goal, this one coming off an Owen Sikkes rebound, the Rockets were given an excellent opportunity to jump right back in the game.
Korbyn Chabot was given two for charging and Justin Meier five minutes for a dangerous hit, giving the Rockets a lengthy power play. The 5 on 3 portion of the power play failed to produce, but Mathew Thiessen managed to salvage the opportunity with a late second period goal, putting the Rockets down by a single goal heading into the third.
The Nitros PP struck again just over six minutes into the third when Eric Buckley finished off a play that Wit started.
The Rockets got close for the final time with 2:45 to play when Andrew Dunn notched a power play goal, but Kimberley responded once again when Marchi got his second of the night, closing the books on the win.
The loss officially eliminated the Rockets from post-season contention, a mere formality with Golden a distant fifth in the Eddie Mountain Division.
Taking over as captain is Goldenite Travis Kelley, the third local to wear the ‘C’ in the past two seasons following Daniel Dahlin and Ian Desrosier.
“It feels pretty good,” Kelley said about becoming captain. “(Growing up) a lot of the kids wanted to go the NHL, I wanted to be a Golden Rocket.”
With the Jan. 10 trade deadline looming, Stephens believes the Rockets might be done as far as trades go, although he wouldn’t rule out one more potential move.
“I think that’s pretty much going to be it,” Stephens said.
“There may be one more possibility, we’re just trying to see what plays out with it.”
The Rockets received future considerations and some cash in exchange for Wit.
Golden will skate on home ice again tonight when they welcome the Fernie Ghostriders.