Having just passed the halfway point in the 2016-17 season, the Columbia Valley Rockies are still on a quest to prove their worthiness of making the playoffs while making a run for a KIJHL championship.
Their 6-15-3 record is good for fourth place in the Eddie Mountain Division of the KIJHL, which is still seven points with two games in hand in front of the Golden Rockets for the final playoff spot. The Rockies’ 119 goals against on the season rank as third last amongst the entire KIJHL with an offence that’s often inconsistent from game to game in the season’s first half.
With 16 points separating the Rockies from the third place Fernie Ghostriders, while sitting comfortably ahead of the Rockets who have lost a league-worst 11 games in a row, the likelihood of the Rockies facing the Creston Thunder Cats for the opening series of the playoffs increases with each game.
While that near-certainty may present added pressure for some teams, Dubielewicz said it allows the Rockies to better prepare for the future matchups each time the two teams meet throughout the season.
“It’s right now,” he said of the team’s refocus on their playoff hopes. “Every time we play Creston, because realistically that’s who we’re going to match up with if we’re fortunate enough to make playoffs, we want to tweak our game and try things every single time we play them to see how they react. Going into playoffs, we have a bit of game plan or playbook to pull the trigger on a few things that might help give us an edge.”
Outside of their 1-0 loss to Creston on the opening night of the season in September, last week’s 6-2 loss to the Thunder Cats manifests their closest match bewteen the two teams in their four meetings so far this season.
The recent track record for the Rockies has undoubtedly been bleak. That said, the team has made a number of recent additions to its roster in hopes of bolstering its offence while securing its defence in the eventual run for a playoff spot in the back-half of the season.
Earlier in the month, the Rockies added a trio of defenceman in Peter Matthews, Dawson Boehm and Craig Ofner before adding two forwards, Michael Dyck and Fraser McMann last week in a pair of trades in the KIJHL.
McMann comes as another rookie to the Rockies roster from the Revelstoke Grizzlies after recording five assists in 16 games played. Dubielewicz said the Rockies first heard of McMann becoming available before doing their homework on him to learn that he had the ability to become an offensive weapon for the Rockies.
Similarly, Dyck was a player Dubielewicz said the Rockies have had their eyes on throughout the season while he played for the Ghostriders. Having already recorded 15 points during his stint with Fernie, Dyck becomes the Rockies’ leading scorer, which is the main reason Dubielewicz coveted the 18 year old from the outset of the season.
According to Dubielewicz, both 18-year-old players are natural centres and while that versatility may be a strategic advantage, it will take some time before the coaching staff is able to carve out a definitive role for the team’s newest two players.
“Basically, it’s a feeling out process to find out where their strengths and weaknesses are and then you want to improve those weaknesses and put them in places where they’re able to succeed,” he said. “The tough part is that they’re both original centres so to have them on the wall, it’s a bit unorthodox, it’s uncomfortable for them.”
The move signals a hope of adding some experience to a roster filled with Rookies trying to find their ways in the KIJHL. With 23 games left in the season, the pressure to find that way and earn a playoff berth increases as the season wages on.