After his team’s 20th straight loss to open the season last weekend, Rockets head coach Jason Stephens claimed that his winless club no longer had a monkey on its back, but an elephant.
Mercifully, after a 6-1 win on Saturday in Sicamous, the elephant is gone.
The club followed that up with a 3-3 tie against the Chase Heat on Sunday in Golden and the Rockets are officially unbeaten in two.
“It’s good for the players, it’s good for us as a coaching staff and organization to move forward and get that one off the back,” Stephens said, an understatement as large as Dumbo’s famous ears.
All it took to put a one in the win column was a battle with Golden’s ex-head coach Ty Davidson and his Eagles, who have also struggled to find their game so far this season.
The Rockets got on the board first just over six minutes into the second period courtesy of Layne Hunter, but it took Sicamous just three minutes to respond and knot things at a goal apiece at the game’s midway point.
Ryder Prue gave the Rockets a 2-1 lead three minutes later and that’s when local product Travis Kelley took over.
Kelley, who had spent much of the season’s first two months on the blue line, had scored just a single goal this season heading into Saturday’s contest.
That changed in a hurry, as the big forward scored once in the second and twice in the third to give himself a natural hat trick against his former coach.
The third year Rocket admits there was some extra motivation with Davidson behind the opposing bench.
“It was definitely nice to get the hat trick against Ty. It made it that much better,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s efforts, coupled with some spectacular goaltending from Rockets netminder Brody Nelson, was more than enough to allow the club to cruise to its first win of the season.
It was a looser, much more confident team that would take to the ice the following afternoon in Golden against the Chase Heat.
Perhaps they were a little too loose, as the Rockets struggled out of the gate, getting outshot 12-6 in the first and surrendering the first goal with just over four minutes left in the frame.
The Rockets woke up in the second and played their best period of the game, and one of the best periods they’ve had all season.
Goals from Mathew Thiessen, Kelly and Prue paced Golden to a 3-1 lead by the time the frame was over. It could have been more, as Golden smacked a pair of posts and had numerous chances in close with the man advantage.
That would prove costly in the third, as the Heat responded with a dominant period of their own. The visitors inched closer with just under 16 to play and grabbed the tying goal with 3:24 left in regulation.
There were a few chances in both directions across overtime, but it was surprisingly defensive as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie.
Nelson was once gain a star for the Rockets.
“He absolutely gave us a chance. He robbed them there in overtime and then in the third period he definitely robbed them a couple times. You need a goalie that’s going to make those types of saves sometimes,” Stephens said.
Kelley, with four goals over the two games was another highlight for the Rockets. Stephens recently gave him an ‘A’ to wear on his sweater and the veteran has responded by playing his best hockey of the season.
“(Getting a letter) means quite a bit, being a local and all,” Kelley said.
The Rockets will have a home and home next weekend against the Columbia Valley Rockies, with Friday’s game to take place in Invermere and Saturday’s in Golden. The Creston Valley Thunder Cats will pay the Rockets a visit on Sunday afternoon.