The Golden Rockets have shown signs that they are a much improved team from the one that took until the middle of November to register its first win, but they’re still not nearly ready to threaten the top teams in the Eddie Mountain Division.
That was apparent after the Rockets lost an 8-2 blowout against the Fernie Ghostriders a night after the club secured its fourth victory of the season, besting the Grand Forks Border Bruins by a 1-0 count.
The game against Grand Forks was a pleasant surprise for a team that’s often made a habit of digging the puck out of their own net. Tight checking defence and some big saves from goaltender Brody Nelson allowed the Rockets to put forth what was easily one of its best efforts of the season.
“I felt it was a good 60 minutes. It wasn’t stellar by any means but I thought it was pretty consistent,” said head coach Jason Stephens.
“For us to have the ability to squeak one out 1-0, that’s big for us.”
Golden beat the buzzer and took the lead late in the first when forward Terix Fischer-Kobes caught Bruins goaltender Nikki Maciurzynski cheating to his right post with the puck behind the net. Fischer-Kobes managed to swiftly move the puck out front and bury his chance with just a second remaining on the clock.
Darion Nordick and Kyle Rosolowski assisted on what would turn out to be the only goal of the night for either team.
Part of what allowed the Rockets to shut down the Grand Forks attack, according to Stephens, was the blueline’s quick puck movement in their own zone.
“We’re running some new D-pressure drills that sort of force our (defencemen) to move the puck up into the neutral zone faster.”
One of the team’s oldest players, Nelson has often been Golden’s top performer this season but his efforts have frequently gone unrewarded. That wasn’t the case on Friday as the Invermere native earned the third shutout of his KIJHL career.
“He’s earned that one for sure. He’s held us in games and given us a chance,” Stephens said.
“The whole team was playing well the whole game and they played well defensively and everyone was doing everything they could. That was the end result. That was great,” Nelson said.
The Rockets failed to build on their recent success Saturday against the Ghostriders, allowing two goals in the first and two more early in the second to put themselves in a sizeable 4-0 hole.
Carter Vouri gave Golden some life midway through the second with his second goal of the season and Riley Barnes cut the lead once again early in the third with his second, but that was it for the Rockets scoring.
Suddenly involved in a two goal game, the Riders woke up and took control from there. They scored four goals in the game’s final 10 minutes to cap the night with an 8-2 win.
Nelson allowed all eight goals for Golden, but did so while facing a whopping 68 shots on net.
The games won’t get any easier for the Rockets in what’s turning out to be the best division in the KIJHL. They’ll host the Columbia Valley Rockies on Friday and visit the Kimberley Dynamiters on Saturday before beginning their Christmas break.