Not long after referee Chris Mattl and linesmen Andrew Engelhart and Gavin Roberts hit the ice for the start of the third period, they were greeted with an anthem that no official ever wants to hear.
“Three blind mice, three blind mice” the song blared from the loudspeaker as the men in stripes lapped around the ice at the Golden Arena to a smattering of boos and jeers.
Apparently the gentleman in charge of the sound system was as frustrated with the officials as the 270 Rockets fans who packed the Plywood Palace for Game 2 of the team’s playoff series with the Fernie Ghostriders.
It would be wrong to put the Rockets’ 6-2 loss solely on the officiating. Many of their calls were correct, others a little more puzzling, while some of the non-calls on the Riders had the home team’s fans, players and coaches scratching their collective heads.
Still, Fernie won by four goals and the Rockets will simply have to execute better if they want to get back in this series.
There were two segments of the game where it looked like Golden would have a shot at a big win on home ice and both times their momentum was sapped by a parade to the penalty box that began early and never seemed to let up.
The first came when Cole Mckechney opened the scoring for the Rockets with a beautiful solo effort (while shorthanded, mind you) less than five minutes into the opening frame.
Midway through the period, however, the Rockets took a pair of quick penalties to leave themselves down two men for a full two minutes. They somehow killed that off, but the Riders cashed on the power play that followed to tie things up. It was a goal that Rockets head coach Ty Davidson believes starter Mark Becica should have stopped.
“It was one where I’d like to see my goaltender make the save…we needed some help there,” he said.
The Riders notched two more before the end of the period – one coming on a brutal defensive zone giveaway by Golden – and Fernie was rolling.
Aaron Neufeld had the lone marker in the second period for Fernie and the visitors took a healthy 4-1 lead into the third.
The Rockets came out flying in the third and Braeden Allkins cut the Fernie lead to 4-2 early to give them the momentum once again.
As in the first period, it was penalty trouble that turned the tide back towards the visitors.
Jason Yan notched a power play goal with 12 and a half to play to send a dagger to the heart of the Rockets and put the game out of reach for good. Justin Peers added a late one for Fernie to complete the scoring.
The Rockets’ task got a whole lot tougher with Friday’s loss as the series will shift back to Fernie for Game 3 on Sunday. It’s a place where the Rockets have yet to win this season.
“We just gotta keep it positive as much as possible…we just have to play simple in that rink, chip it off the glass and out and forecheck hard. It’s a small rink so you’ve gotta hit everything,” said Rockets captain Daniel Dahlin.
Davidson, who had previously wavered on his starting netminder before the series, was quick to name his Game 3 starter following Friday’s loss.
“Magnus (Viberg) will get the start on Sunday. Until one of them wins a game for us, that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said.
The series will return to Golden for Game 4 on Monday.