Bright spots among brutal losses
The talent is there—it’s just the ice time is not.
The Crested Butte Wolfpack hockey team opened the 2009-2010 season with four games against the Gunnison Blades A and B squads on Saturday and Sunday, November 21-22.
While the Blades have reaped the benefits of their home indoor ice rink, the Wolfpack managed only a handful of workouts on the ice, mixed in with dry-land training.
The lack of ice time showed in their preseason scrimmages against the two Blades teams, losing all four games over two days. While individual skills seemed somewhat intact for several Wolfpack players, team play was near non-existent—and that can be attributed primarily to their infrequent ice times.
It was a dubious start to the weekend for the Wolfpack when Blades A team players Luke Schumacher and Trent Macallister each scored in the opening minute of the first game.
The Wolfpack recovered to settle into the game pace and respond with back-to-back goals as Sam Evans carried the puck to the Blades net on a power play and scored and Jake Grogg followed suit 30 seconds later to tie the game 2-2.
Christian Cavarra put the Blades back on top at the end of the period to give the Blades a 3-2 lead going into the second period.
Wolfpack goalie Nicholas Mikeska came up with a couple of point blank saves to open the second period but the Blades maintained pressure in the Wolfpack zone to score a fourth goal as a shot from Corey Whinnery trickled over the shoulder of Mikeska.
The Wolfpack took advantage of a Blades mishap and Connor McGuire slipped a pass to Evans for his second goal of the game, closing the Blades’ lead back down to one but the Schumacher brothers connected for a goal each in the second and third periods to seal the 6-3 win.
The Wolfpack looked to recover in the second game of the day, facing the Gunnison Blades B team.
The two teams played scoreless hockey into the second period before the Blades struck to take a 2-0 lead on goals by Taren Reinecke and Kalae Miller.
Brandon Roedder netted two goals in the third and Miller tallied his second goal of the game with Wolfpack player Ben Reaman providing the only strike of the game as Crested Butte fell 5-1.
While the final score was tough, the loss of Wolfpack players Jenner Currier and Troy Pike was the salt in the wound, as each suffered injuries forcing them to sit out the rest of the weekend.
Two down, two to go and the legs started barking at the young Wolfpack team as they suited up Sunday. With two players out with injuries, the Wolfpack was asked to suck it up even more for the next two games.
But the Wolfpack’s woes continued on Sunday as they struggled to put together cohesive breakouts and set up in the Blades’ zone. The fatigue factor made matters worse for the Wolfpack as the Blades won more and more loose pucks up and down the ice.
The Wolfpack lost game three and then ran into a buzzsaw in the fourth game.
Gunnison charged into the fourth game of the weekend, the second for the A team, firing on all pistons, scoring three goals in the first period, sharing the strikes between Dan Wiedman, Cavarra and Schumacher.
The Wolfpack connected in the final minutes of the first period when Ben Frame carried the puck up ice single-handedly, drawing three Blades players. The puck slipped free but the diversion opened Collin Dill up on the weak side. Dill settled the puck and fed Elias Friedman in the slot. Friedman hesitated to read the goalie and then pushed the puck through to the low corner.
But the Blades scored three more as Wiedman completed the hat trick, and Mike Spallone punched one through in the waning moments of the game to close with a 6-1 win and sweep the Wolfpack on the weekend.
The Wolfpack will return to action on Thursday, December 3 as they head back down to Gunnison to play the Blades A team at 8 p.m. Their first home game at Big Mine Ice Arena is scheduled for Sunday, January 3.