“They gave 110 percent all weekend long”
The Crested Butte Wolfpack hockey team came into the post season on a roll, closing the regular season with two wins and two ties against some of the top teams in the league.
But early season woes still had the Wolfpack with a sub-.500 record and they entered the playoffs the number six seed, scheduled to face the number three seed, Grand Valley in a best of three game series Saturday and Sunday, February 14-15.
While the Wolfpack lost two games to Grand Valley in the first half of the season, they were close matches and the Wolfpack played without league-scoring leader Robbie Holleran and defenseman Jake Sunter.
With that in mind, coach Rob Bramwell felt confident about the match-up last week, believing that the addition of Holleran and Sunter could make up the difference and help Crested Butte take Grand Valley down.
Max Molitor gave the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead in the first period of game one and Ricky Sandoval added a second Wolfpack strike two minutes later, retribution for all of the hustle Sandoval put in all season long.
“I was stoked to see him finally bury one,” says Bramwell.
Grand Valley recovered from the 2-0 deficit to rattle off two goals and tie the game by the end of the first period.
Sam Evans netted an unassisted goal in the second period to put the Wolfpack back on top but Grand Valley came charging back. Sending their defensemen from end-to-end, Grand Valley proceeded to pepper the Wolfpack net for a total of 34 shots in the game scoring three unanswered goals to hand the Wolfpack a 5-3 loss.
With their backs against the wall, the Wolfpack coaches laid it out in the simplest of terms for the team.
“We just told them it was do or die,” says Bramwell.
With the end of their high school hockey careers on the line, Holleran and goalie Zach Van Dyke took it upon themselves to fire the team up for the second game.
“Robbie and Zach really took the reins and pumped the team up,” says Bramwell.
Evans gave the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead in the first period, scoring off an assist from Holleran.
Holleran and Evans connected for three more goals in the second period but Grand Valley netted three as well, leaving the Wolfpack with a slim 4-3 lead heading into the third period.
The two teams played back and forth all period long until Grand Valley slipped a game-tying goal in, with under three minutes left in the game.
But Holleran and Evans had one more trick up their sleeve as Holleran netted a fifth and final goal off an Evans assist in the final minute to take game two 5-4 and force a third and final game on Sunday.
“They were flying their defensemen coast-to-coast and we caught on in the second game and got lots of odd-man rushes,” says Bramwell.
The Wolfpack run at the post season came to an end, though, in the third game as Grand Valley took a 3-1 lead midway through the third period. A goal by Holleran two minutes later cut the Grand Valley lead down to one but they held on for the 3-2 win, closing out the season for the Wolfpack.
“The kids played their hearts out,” says Bramwell. “They gave 110 percent all weekend. I’m bummed because we had some great momentum going in.”