For the duration of the second period of last night’s home finale, the Golden Rockets appeared poised to go out with a bang.
That didn’t come to fruition, however, as the club faltered swiftly in the third period, surrendering a pair of goals in the opening minute and eventually falling 7-3 to the Columbia Valley Rockies.
“It’s hard to say what happened there in the third period…Everything felt good going into the third and just a couple of breakdowns and guys sort of trying to do a little too much, to push a little harder than they should have,” said head coach Jason Stephens.
The Rockets never led on Tuesday night but hung with the Rockies throughout the opening 40 minutes.
Doan Smith got the scoring started for Columbia Valley midway through the opening frame with an assist from former Rocket Nick Hoobanoff, who had a monster four point night against his old club.
Wesley Howerton notched a power play goal for Golden less than two minutes later, but Ryan St. Jean gave the visitors the lead heading into the second when he walked in from the point and blasted a laser past Rockets netminder Keyon Bittner.
Kyle Rosolowski scored with a man advantage early in the second before Micheal Cardinal once again put the Rockies up later in the period.
With just 33 seconds remaining in the second, Jake Gudjonson got the Rockets’ third power play goal of the game to keep things level heading into the second intermission.
The Rockies came out flying in the third and strung together four goals, one into an empty net, and the Rockets failed to respond.
The loss puts a tattered bow on the lump of coal that has been the Rockets home schedule this season, the young squad having won just three of their 26 games at the Plywood Palace this year, but Stephens remains optimistic about the group he has going forward, which includes a remarkable number of rookies who will be eligible to return for ’16/17.
“We have a great core group here now. I’d like to keep them together but at the same time, if we lose guys to the next level then we’re also doing our job,” Stephens said.
The game marked the home finale for captain Travis Kelley, a local that has played the last three seasons with the Rockets.
“Trying to put a win together for Travis Kelley was important to the team. The guys felt bad, they liked the compete level but at the end of the day it’s not a good feeling when you don’t win that last home game,” Stephens said.
The first year Rockets coach was also keen to point out the effort put forth by the club’s many volunteers and the level of fan support through what’s been a difficult year.
“We really appreciate the game day volunteers and the fans for supporting us,” he said.
The Rockets will put a lot of miles on the team bus this weekend with road games in Creston, Invermere and Fernie. They’ll wrap up their season next Friday in Kimberley.