The Lacombe Fountain Tire Midget A Rockets had their season ended a game sooner than they would’ve liked.
On Sunday, the team was axed in the semifinals by the La Crete Lumberjacks 4-3 at the Hockey Alberta Midget B Provincials in Calgary.
“We did really well – we got to the semifinals where we lost in overtime,” said Coach Greg Church. “It was a heartbreaker, but I couldn’t be more proud of the boys that they got that far and played so well all weekend.”
The Rockets, who were playing at Midget B provincials rather than Midget A provincials due to their smaller roster, went 2-1-1 in the round robin, including a 7-2 win against the Foothills Flyers, a 10-4 win over the Hughenden Jets, a 4-1 loss to the eventual provincial champions in the Glenlake Hawks and a 3-3-3 tie with the Athabasca Hawks.
However, it would be the semifinal where they’d come up just short.
The Lumberjacks would score just 7:53 into the opening frame. It wouldn’t be until 5:28 of the second period that the Rockets would respond, with forward Jaden Etson scoring on the power play. Momentum seemed to shift, and Etson would score his second of the game about ten minutes later to give the team their first lead.
Less than three minutes into the third, Etson then set up Owen McKinlay on the power play to take a 3-1 lead, but it would be their last goal as the team would get into some penalty trouble, which resulted in two goals for the Lumberjacks and a tie game.
“It was just some bad bounces – they tied it up with about five minutes to go in the third and we went to OT,” said Church. “They did a little chip play along the boards, got a two-on-one that they executed perfectly and finished us off about five minutes into overtime.”
Etson would finish as the tournament leader in goals with eight, and tie with Brady McKinlay ( 5 goals, 7 assists for third in points. Owen McKinlay wasn’t too far behind with five goals and three assists for eight points.
Goaltender Carson D’onofrio had a 1-2-0 record with a 3.93 goals against average in three games played, while his goalie partner Brenden Hoffman had three ties and 2.00 goals against average.
Church said they gave everything they had, but were down a defenceman – Peyton Church – and had a few players banged up, including McKinlay who was injured in the last game.
Glenlake would finish the Lumberjacks in the final for the provincial title.
In the regular season, the Rockets had a 5-10-2 record to finish third in the Central Alberta Hockey League Tier I Red.
In playoffs, they reached the semifinals against Stettler, but fell two games to one in the best-of-three series. Fortunately, it wasn’t the end of their season and they headed to zone playdowns, where they became Zone 4 champions after defeating the Red Deer Kings Energy Chiefs in the final.
“We had a really slow start to the year, but we just gained momentum and got better and better as the season went on,” said Church. “It culminated this weekend with playing really well.
“They gave 100 per cent every game. They battled through injuries and kept trying right to the end.”