Evans leads team with three goals
It was only a matter of time before the Crested Butte Wolfpack hockey team would get its first win of the season.
After dropping two games on a season opening road trip two weeks ago to Craig, the Wolfpack returned home to win one of two games against the Kremmling Cattle Kings.
The Cattle Kings’ noticeable size difference over the Wolfpack was obvious as the two teams walked from the locker rooms to the ice.
Nearly every Cattle King was as big if not bigger than Crested Butte’s two biggest players, Jake Grogg and Ben Frame.
Yet, speed and hustle will almost always outskate size in hockey, and such was the case in the first game on Sunday.
After a sluggish opening five minutes from both teams, the Wolfpack picked up the pace with the first line of Sam Evans, Ben Reaman and Ricky Sandoval leading the charge up ice.
With Reaman carrying the puck up the boards, Evans crashing the net and Sandoval battling for every loose puck in the Cattle Kings’ zone, the Wolfpack started controlling play.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack defense turned away numerous Cattle King counters, with Frame and Jake Sunter breaking up the Kremmling offense at the blue line.
Crested Butte broke the scoreless tie in the ninth minute of the first period when Frame dumped the puck behind the Kremmling net for Evans to chase down. Evans pulled the puck off the boards and turned straight for the net to stuff it through, for a 1-0 Wolfpack lead.
Kremmling recovered to take control of the game, holding the puck in the Wolfpack zone for the next three minutes. Crested Butte goalie Nicholas Mikeska stopped a couple of shots in close, but the defense’s failure to clear the puck ultimately led to a Cattle Kings’ goal tying the game.
Kremmling took a 2-1 lead in the second period, winning a face off in the Wolfpack zone and scoring on a rebound. The Cattle Kings were primed to build on their lead with two power play opportunities in the second period, but the Wolfpack defense killed both to set up a surge in the waning minutes of the second period.
Sunter won a loose puck at the Wolfpack blue line and carried it up ice through two Cattle Kings players before dumping it behind the net.
With no one following, Sunter carried his momentum to the puck, getting a pass from Grogg and slipped in the no angle shot off the goalie, tying the game 2-2.
Crested Butte struck again in the opening minute of the third period when a pass up ice found Evans behind the Cattle King defense. Evans carried the puck across the goalmouth to beat the Kremmling net minder with a backhand, retaking the lead 3-2.
Evans finished the day with a hat trick, scoring on another backhand in the 12th minute of the third period to seal the 4-2 Wolfpack win.
“It seemed like both teams were asleep but I feel like as we played we got back into our groove,” says coach Rob Bramwell.
The Cattle Kings sought to avenge the morning loss when the two teams met that afternoon for the second of two games.
Kremmling came out on fire to take a 2-0 lead in the first period before the Wolfpack responded in the eighth minute on a goal by Frame.
But every time the Wolfpack looked to climb back into the game, the Cattle Kings would shut the door.
Kremmling scored in the third minute of the second period to go up 3-1.
Crested Butte cut the lead back to one on a goal by Grogg but Kremmling scored again.
Grogg closed the second period scoring on a power play to hold the Wolfpack within one heading into the third period.
Kremmling struck again early in the period to go up 5-3, and while Collin Dill connected on a pass from Max Molitor to pull Crested Butte back within one, the game-tying goal eluded Crested Butte as they fell 5-4.
“I warned them before the game not to underestimate Kremmling and that they weren’t just going to lay over for us,” says Bramwell. “They got up early and we just couldn’t catch up. It was too little, too late.”
The Wolfpack’s next home game will be on Wednesday, January 13 when they will host Gunnison at Big Mine Ice Arena at 8 p.m.