Rockets forward David Larouche (18) tries to slip a puck past Rockies netminder Stewart Pratt during the first period of Golden's 5-4 loss Saturday night.

Rockets-Rockies playoff race heating up

Following a busy weekend the Rockets and Rockies are tied for the final playoff spot in their division with three games to play.

For a time during Saturday night’s game against the Columbia Valley Rockies it appeared as though the Rockets were about to take a stranglehold on the final playoff spot in the Eddie Mountain Division. Coming off a big 3-2 win in Invermere the night before, the Rockets looked poised to push their rivals further down the standings with the end of the season drawing near. Twenty minutes of lackadaisical play erased that possibility and the Rockets now find themselves back in a dogfight for the post-season following the 5-4 defeat on Saturday to the Rockies and a Sunday night loss to the Fernie Ghostriders.

“It was terrible…we got so loose and loosey goosey in the dressing room and it showed immediately when we got out on the ice,” said a frustrated Ty Davidson following Saturday’s loss.

Before the third period collapse, the Rockets had dominated the first 40 minutes of play and gave themselves a 4-2 cushion. Jacob Macpherson got things started with a power play goal 3:01 into the game with assists going to Braeden Allkins and Daniel Dahlin. The Rockies responded with goals by Tyson Kapty in the first and Doan Smith early in the second, but it was all Rockets in the later stages of the second.

At the tail end of an uninspiring power play, Ian Desrosier broke into the Rockies’ zone on the right wing and found a wide-open Tanner Watt for the tying goal. Two minutes later a cross-ice feed from Macpherson found Allkins’ skate and slid past Rockies goalie Stewart Pratt. The goal stood after a brief discussion from the officials.

Numerous pileups in front and a few timely heckles from the 253 fans on hand seemed to get under the skin of Pratt during the late stages of the second. Nick McCabe added another against the visibly rattled netminder and suddenly the Rockets looked ready to sweep the weekend home and home with Columbia Valley.

The Rockies came out flying in the third got themselves to within one just over two minutes into the period before tying it up a little over a minute later after a costly blunder from Rockets netminder Brian Parsons. With the puck loose in the Rockets’ defensive zone, Parsons came out of his net to try and beat oncoming Rockies forward Braeden Farge to the puck. Farge won the race and slipped past a sprawling Parsons for the equalizer. The goal prompted a Patrick Roy-style wink from Pratt at the other end of the ice towards a few of his “fans”.

The tie score seemed to wake the Rockets up after that, but Pratt shut the door with a few nice saves, including a beautiful glove stop on Nick Hoobanoff, to keep the score even at four apiece.

The Rockies went ahead for good with just over seven minutes to play when Smith scored his second goal of the game. With Parsons pulled for an extra attacker, the Rockets mounted little in the way of a late game charge and time ran out on their hopes of a four point lead in the standings.

The disappointing loss could be a product of the Rockets’ relative youth and inexperience.

“Older guys, more experienced guys, I guess know how to prepare themselves and know how to close out a game,” Davidson said. “We should have easily been able to close that out…there’s no way we should have blown that game.”

The tough loss seemed to carry over into the following night and the Rockets experienced another setback, this time by a 4-2 score to the Ghostriders.

The Riders jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 21 minutes on goals from J.J. Beitel and Anthony Gilbert. Dahlin narrowed the gap for the Rockets six minutes into the second period and it was 2-1 Riders after 40 minutes of play. Beitel beat Rockets goaltender Adam Johnson midway through the third but Desrosier replied less than three minutes later with a shorthanded marker. Joel Burgess scored with just over 2 minutes left to cement the Riders’ 4-2 win.

Despite the losses, the Rockets remain in fourth place because they have more wins than the Rockies. The two clubs will face-off once more this season, in Golden on Feb. 21.

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