Late Gunnison goal steals Crested Butte win
The Crested Butte Wolfpack suffered a tough tie with the Gunnison Blades B team Wednesday night at Big Mine Ice Arena.
It was a tough pill to swallow, given the effort the Wolfpack put in on the ice that night. Everyone was skating hard and while team play was somewhat fleeting, individual efforts from everyone helped carry Crested Butte through three periods of play.
The Wolfpack pressured the puck at both ends of the ice, winning pucks behind both nets. Heavy forechecking in the Blades zone broke up the Gunnison breakouts repeatedly, leaving it up to solo efforts from Blades skater Andy Howard to move the puck up-ice.
The Blades threatened early in the game with a couple of shots in close but Wolfpack netminder Nicholas Mikeska made several key stops and the Wolfpack defense cleared the puck from harm’s way.
Crested Butte center Sam Evans led the Wolfpack charge on offense in the first period, looking for seams in the Gunnison defense.
The effort paid off six minutes into the first period when Evans carried the puck up-ice out of the Wolfpack zone and straight for the Blades’ net.
After sliding by the first Blades defender a poke check from a second Gunnison player kicked the puck up in the air. Without hesitation, Evans reached up and grabbed the puck out of the air, laid it down back on his stick and beat the Gunnison goalie with a backhand for a 1-0 Wolfpack lead.
Crested Butte continued with heavy forechecking in the neutral zone and their defense won the physical side of the game, coming out of strong checks with the puck and looking up-ice.
Howard proved elusive though, as he threaded through the Wolfpack zone setting up numerous teammates with golden opportunities on net. Howard eventually took matters into his own hands, firing a shot on net and following the rebound to score, tying the game three minutes into the second period.
The two teams traded solo efforts as play bounced from one end to the other. The Wolfpack reeled it in as a team for the final minute of the period producing a couple of chances on-net, but the Blades held on to send the game into the third period tied 1-1.
After a couple of hectic minutes from both sides at the start of the third period, the Wolfpack settled down to take control of the puck.
Ricky Sandoval was unhinged on the ice, scrapping for pucks all over the place in the Blades’ zone and harassing the Gunnison defenders.
Evans followed suit, chasing the puck around the Gunnison net to set up Sandoval in the high slot. Sandoval settled the pass and picked the top shelf clean with a wrist shot, putting the Wolfpack back on top 2-1.
Gunnison picked up their play for the rest of the game but the Crested Butte defense remained tight, with Mikeska making saves.
The Blades pulled their goalie with 45 seconds left in the game and planted two players front of the Crested Butte net. The ploy worked as a shot from the point dropped right in front of them. They proceeded to swing away at the loose puck until Evan Ayers connected to beat Mikeska low for the game-tying goal.
The Wolfpack will continue their home ice stand on Saturday, January 23 when they host Durango. Puck drops at 6:30 p.m.