Playing in his ninth KIJHL game and just a couple days removed from celebrating his 16th birthday, Rockets defenceman Alex Astasiewicz had a bit of a premonition as his team was preparing for overtime Friday night against the Fernie Ghostriders.
“I was thinking about it on the bench, how cool it would be to get the OT winner with everyone jumping on me,” he said with a mile-wide grin.
True to form, the Salmon Arm native found an opportunity early in the second OT period.
“I just turned around at the net and I was trying to go for (Braeden) Allkins in front,” he explained. “I just kind of threw a blind pass in front and it went off someone’s skate and went in five hole…it was a lucky bounce.”
Lucky or not, it certainly wasn’t a bad time for him to notch his first KIJHL goal, and it came at the tail end of a wild affair that included numerous lead changes, a fight and 13 goals.
Perhaps the most encouraging development for the Rockets was the return of Tanner Watt and the instant chemistry he found with Ian Desrosier and Cole Mckechney. The Rockets’ second line – perhaps it would be more appropriate to call it line 1b – looked dangerous from the very beginning and opened the scoring just over seven minutes in. On a broken play in the neutral zone, Watt nudged the puck ahead for Desrosier, who buried his chance on what became a partial breakaway.
It was the first of four goals for the trio, with Watt adding a pair and Mckechney scoring a beautiful breakaway goal of his own. Watt also had an assist to go with his two goals while Mckechney added three for a game-high 4 points.
Not to be outdone, the Rockets’ other top trio of Allkins, Finlay and Hoobanoff added two goals as well.
After Astasiewicz’s winner, the most pivotal moment came just as it appeared the Rockets were going to come up short.
In the dying minutes of regulation time, and with the Rockets trailing 6-5, defenceman Sean Ripley fired a shot at Ghostriders netminder Brandon Butler. There was a large crowd in front, but it was Allkins who managed to get his stick on the puck, deflecting the shot past Butler and giving the Rockets new life.
The unsung hero of the night might have been Rockets goaltender Magnus Viberg, who took over for Mitchell Privett late in the second and allowed just a single goal on 11 shots, five of which came in OT. A remarkable feat in a game that was chock full of offence.
Despite the 13 goals, this was far from being a finesse hockey game, as there was plenty of extra curricular activity after the whistle between the division rivals. Tensions boiled over midway through the second when Rockets defenceman Austin Pultz got into a fight with Zak Kuchler. Pultz left with a bloody nose but still earned a decisive victory in the bout.
Davidson believes the Rockets’ conditioning played a factor in the back and forth affair.
“Quite simply, we’re in better shape than (Fernie),” Davidson opined. “I fail to see if there is any team in our league that works as hard as we do off the ice and in practices.”
With the win, the Rockets move to 4-4-0-1, good enough for 9 points and third place in the Eddie Mountain Division. They’ll be back on home ice tonight for a matchup with the first place Kimberley Dynamiters.