Rockies tame Thunder Cats to close out 2023

Not all the fireworks were in the sky this New Year’s.

The Columbia Valley Rockies ushered out 2023 with back- to-back wins against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, in Creston on Dec. 30 and then home in the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena to a standing room only crowd.

Head coach Tayler Sincennes said he was really impressed with the group’s effort coming out of the Christmas break.

“We had two excellent practices and played really well in both games,” he said. “(Nate) Glenn played great in both games and we got timely scoring. I’m hoping we continue with the same energy we did in both of those games.”

In Creston’s Johnny Bucyk Arena Dec. 30, Gage Sather opened scoring in the first (assist from Ellis Mcgeough), followed by Oleg Bitus (assists from Mcgeough and Nathan Kaye). Teo Fath cinched the 3-1 win with an unassisted goal in the third.

Nate Glenn

Netminder Nate Glenn stopped 34 of 35 shots on goal.

Home in the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena New Year’s Eve there was no scoring until the second when Kobe Mason opened things up (assists from Wyatt Wurtz and Kyran Gromnisky), then netted his second goal in the third period (assists from Fath and Paddy Donahue) and won the game in overtime with a goal that also earned him a hat trick (assists from Sather and Jamieson Franz).

Glenn was between the pipes again and stopped 28 of 30 shots on goal.

“(The New Year’s Eve) weekend was a great way to come back into the second portion of the season and spring us forward with some great momentum,” said assistant coach Tanner Wit.

“Looks like we used the break to reset and the boys looked fresh and motivated. Once again Nate Glenn had a stellar weekend and gave us ample opportunity to win both games. The New Year’s Eve game was amazing with a great crowd and it is always nice to have your older guys step up… like the way Kobe Mason did with a hat trick.”

Nathan Kaye

Newly acquired defenceman Nathan Kaye played his 100th Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) game New Year’s Eve and has quickly proven himself an asset to the team.

Last weekend saw a slight wobble in the momentum the Rockies brought into 2024 with, but it was not enough to knock them completely off track.

Jan. 5 saw the Golden Rockets in town and while the game was fast paced, a lot of missed scoring opportunities did some damage.

Scoring opened in the first courtesy of Mason (assists from Kaelen Shelton and Fath), with Franz adding to the tally in the second period (assists from Mason and Shelton). Mason potted a third (assists from Fath and Mcgeough) but the Rockets managed to not only tie it up but get two goals ahead in the third period, resulting in Sincennes pulling netminder Jaiden Jakubowski twice to put another set of skates on the ice late in the third.

The gamble paid off with Mason (assists from Wurtz and Kaye) and then Tysin Mulligan (assists from Kaye and Sather) tying it up.

The overtime play was intense but it came down to a shootout, with Golden coming out on top despite Jakubowski stopping 23 of 28 shots on goal.

January 7 saw the Rockies back in Fernie against the Ghostriders, another shootout game with the Rockies coming out on top.

Mulligan started off the scoring in the first (assists from Bitus and Shelton) with Shelton following suit (assists from Carter Velker and Donhue).

Second period scoring was courtesy of Justin King (assists from Franz and Velker) and the third period saw Shelton (unassisted) and Mulligan (assist from Danny Schmirler) tie up the game, which the Rockies won in the second overtime shootout.

“I really liked our efforts (in both games),” said Sincennes. “For the most part we showed good resiliency coming back. But we definitely need to tighten up defensively. Giving up that many goals in a weekend isn’t what we want to do.”

Associate coach Tucker Braund said he is looking forward to the rest of the season.

“We came back from the break and had a couple of good practices and got back to the way we want to play,” he said. “A few things to tighten up and I think we will be heading in the right direction.

“The rest of the year comes quick… I think we only have 12 games (remaining) and we have high expectations for those 12 games. We want to win our division again and have home ice advantage for a long playoff run. We are a young team, probably one of the youngest in our division, but we want to ruffle some feathers in our division and onward. Every day we are getting better and we just have to have that mindset the rest of the way.”

The Rockies are back in the Eddie Jan. 12 squaring off with Fernie in a battle for second place in the Eddie Mountain Division. The Rockies are tied with the ‘Riders for second but Fernie holds a game in hand.

Kimberley Dynamiters hold a three point lead for first place in the division, though the Rockies and Ghostriders have games in hand.

The Osoyoos Coyotes are in Invermere Saturday, and on Tuesday, Jan. 16, Golden Rockets are in town.

The highly competitive Rockies and KIJHL are luring large crowds once again to the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena in Invermere.

Lead image:  Rockies forward Kobe Mason wins a draw against Creston. Stephanie Stevens photos

Written by Stephanie Stevens