Enter playoffs as second seed
All season long the Crested Butte Wolfpack hockey team decimated its opponents, for a 12-0 record with two games left in the regular season.
It turns out, so did Durango as they entered the final weekend of the season with a 12-0-1, with a mere seven goals scored against them all year.
Therefore, the regular season title came down to the wire as the Wolfpack headed to face Durango in a double header on Saturday, February 9.
Unfortunately, weather curtailed the Wolfpack’s workouts as they prepared for their games against Durango, leaving head coach Phil Martin one practice to ready his team.
It turns out, one practice was not nearly enough as the Wolfpack lost both games to Durango 6-3 and 4-2.
“We knew we’d have trouble with them and we did,” says Martin.
Durango utilized a creative breakout scheme to set up numerous odd man rushes on the Wolfpack. They opened the first game scoring four goals in the first period before Mo Gillie broke the ice for the Wolfpack late in the opening period.
After a scoreless second period, Durango took a 5-1 lead in the opening minutes of the third period.
John Tharp scored on an assist from Sam Evans and Robbie Holleran scored an unassisted goal but Durango added on last strike for the 6-3 win.
Durango opened the second game much like the first, taking a 2-0 lead before Tharp scored to pull the Wolfpack within one.
Durango added a third goal but Tharp netted his second goal of the game midway through the third period to hold Durango in striking distance with plenty of time left in the game.
As time waned, Martin pulled the goalie looking for a game-tying goal but a Durango player broke free and scored an empty-net goal to seal the 4-2 win.
Despite the losses Martin is still optimistic about the season.
“We had a 12-0 stretch and that’s incredible,” says Martin. “It’s a lot better to lose during the season than in the playoffs. The last thing I want to do is pull a ‘Patriots’.”
In addition to the teams’ success in the regular season, Tharp and Holleran ended up two of the top three scorers in the league. Holleran led the league with 31 goals and 22 assists and Tharp finished in third place in scoring with 24 goals and 14 assists. Wolfpack goalie Zach Van Dyke led the league in saves.
The Wolfpack will enter the playoffs the number two seeded team and face the number seven seed on Saturday, February 16 at 2 and 5 p.m. in Gunnison.
Last season the Wolfpack lost in the first round of the playoffs but Martin and his team are determined not to repeat last year’s demise.
“We’re not going to end the season like that,” says Martin. “This season we’re coming into the first round really strong.”
If they win those games, they automatically advance to the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League Tournament in Grand Junction Saturday and Sunday, February 23-24.