The Columbia Valley Rockies counted their chickens far too early but they hatched anyways, knocking the Rockets out of the playoffs and putting an abrupt end to a mostly disappointing season for Golden, following a 6-5 Columbia Valley OT victory.
The Rockies stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first period on the back of goals by Doan Smith, Ryan Lawson and Matthew Houston. Houston’s goal was a seeing eye shot from the point that seemed to bob and weave its way past Rockets goaltender Brian Parsons.
The early lead prompted a barrage of taunts from the Rockies toward the Rockets’ bench, and it seemed to light a fire in head coach Ty Davidson’s struggling club.
Midway through the first, Nick McCabe capitalized on a blunder from Rockies goalie Stewart Pratt. With the puck resting safely on the mesh behind the net, Pratt flicked the puck into the corner. Bowen Alcock and Jacob Coelho combined to win a battle for the loose puck and McCabe was waiting in front untouched.
Nick Hoobanoff, a native of Canal Flats, bore a good chunk of the taunts from the Rockies after the 3-0 goal. Hoobanoff exacted a good measure of revenge when he setup linemate Ian Desrosier for the Rockets’ second goal and potted the tying goal with just 45 seconds left in the second period.
Rockets captain Michael Anderson gave Golden its first lead of the game 18 seconds later when his slapper found a hole past Pratt. It was a devastating blow for the Rockies, but not a unique situation for the team this year.
“We’ve done that quite a few times this year,” said Rockies head coach Wade Dublielewicz. “To be honest, it was nothing new to us. I feel a lot more comfortable with our group going into the third without a lead.”
The clock seemed to tick away ever so slowly in the third as the Rockets hung on to a narrow one-goal lead. With the Rockets on the power play, Parsons and a Golden defender got their signals crossed in their own zone to give the Rockies a chance that Smith buried for his second goal of the game.
On that same power play, however, veteran Coltin Berard let one rip from inside the left point that blew past Pratt for the go-ahead goal.
From there, few opportunities were given up at either end as the Rockets protected their precarious hold on the game.
With just under two minutes to play the Rockets lost a defensive face-off and Rockies defenceman Mitchell Rosko took a shot from the point that hit a Rocket defender in front. A fortunate bounce gave Ryan Henderson a wide open net. The Rockies’ leading scorer made no mistake and the game was tied once again.
Like their rivals from the south, the Rockets have had a difficult time holding leads in the third period of late. This was the third time in the past five games that the Rockets had blown a lead in the game’s final frame.
“We’re a young and inexperienced team and we don’t know how to finish off a game,” said Davidson. “They made really simple, dumb mistakes that, unfortunately, the only way that you learn them is by making them.”
With the game into overtime, the Rockets needed a win while Columbia Valley could settle for a tie and still clinch a spot. The situation called for a somewhat conservative approach from the Rockies.
“I said (to the players) no cheating, no jumping, you stay with your guy and if we have an opportunity we’ll score it,” said Dublielewicz. “For the most part we did it, we played man on man and didn’t give up too much. We played somewhat safe and we had an opportunity to score.”
That opportunity came when the Rockies broke out of the Rockets’ zone with a clear 2-on-1. Berard was the lone man back for Golden and he played the pass across. Smith made a nice play to slip past him and move in on Parsons 1-on-1. With a quick wrister he completed the hat trick and put an end to the Rockets’ season.
It was a disappointing end for a Rockets team that had high hopes at the start of the year that never fully materialized. While many players are sure to return for next year, 20 year old defencemen Anderson and Berard won’t be the only players moving on as Davidson looks to make changes to a roster that, while young and improving, has some significant holes to fill in order to get back to the playoffs.