The Golden Rockets came out flat, and by the time they found their legs, and a touch of chemistry, it was too late to salvage their home opener on Friday night against the Kamloops Storm.
There were numerous fresh faces in the Rockets’ lineup, many playing with each other for the first time after some late roster adjustments following a brief training camp and exhibition season.
It showed early on, as the Storm took control in the game’s opening minutes and peppered Rockets goaltender Mark Becica with several quality scoring chances.
“I knew it was going to be an ugly start and I was just hoping that things would calm themselves down,” said head coach Jason Stephens.
Becica, who was nursing an injury during the pre-season and seeing his first live game action of the season, says he didn’t mind the extra work early in the first.
“It’s always nice when you can get right in there and get some shots…when you don’t see a shot for 10 minutes your feet are kind of cold. It was definitely nice to get some shots early,” Becica said.
At the end of the opening 20 minutes, the Storm held a 12-5 shot advantage that was very indicative of the play, but Becica held the Rockets in it and the teams remained tied 0-0.
The Storm continued to push the play in the second, but it was the Rockets who eventually broke through when newcomer Jordan Reid-Whyte fired a shot from the half boards that somehow found its way past Storm goaltender Jacob Mullen.
The lead was short-lived and two minutes later the Storm scored a pair of goals against Becica just over a minute apart. They added another midway through the third to give themselves a two goal cushion that would prove to be vital as the Rockets seemed to finally find their legs during the latter half of the period.
Supplying much of the fireworks for Golden was local rookie Jake Gudjonson, who was playing in his first KIJHL regular season game.
Gudjonson looked comfortable throughout and nearly notched a shorthanded goal in the second. That earned him the confidence of his coach, and he was promoted to the top line alongside captain Ian Desrosier and Mathew Thiessen.
“(Gudjonson) played great all night. He’s going to be a key member here this year,” Stephens said.
The move to the top line paid dividends immediately, and Gudjonson tallied his first KIJHL goal with 7:47 to go in the third.
“We were working the puck down low, (Desrosier) passed the puck to Thiessen and then just right out front, right there I saw the puck, just slapped it. I didn’t even aim,” he laughed.
It was a special moment for the 16 year-old Goldenite, who recalls skating with the Rockets when he was just five years old. He received a large cheer from the Rockets faithful when his name was announced as the goal scorer.
“I can’t even explain it. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done…it’s just a fantastic experience to get my first goal in my first game on home ice,” Gudjonson said.
The Rockets failed to find find the tying marker over the final minutes and the Storm added a late empty netter to cap the scoring with a 4-2 win.
Quite clearly, the Rockets played their best hockey in the third, outshooting their opponents by a 10-7 count.
“I think we got better and better as the (game) went on and we got to the third here and I thought we played real well,” Stephens said.
Golden will make the trip south to Kimberley for their next contest, a matchup with the defending champion Dynamiters.