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Gunnison wins Monarch Cup showdown in Crested Butte

Revenge is a dish best served cold, ice cold

by Than Acuff

Despite the bitter sub-zero temperatures on Sunday, December 18 in Crested Butte, the Monarch Cup men’s hockey series is heating up as Gunnison edged out a 9-8 win over Crested Butte, bringing the series to 3-2 in favor of Crested Butte.

How cold was it?

“My mouth keeps sticking to my beer,” said scorekeeper Ben Preston. “That’s what temperature it is.”

It was actually classic Crested Butte conditions for hockey, –9 degrees Fahrenheit with snow banks piled up around the rink, plastic face shields fogging up and facial hair covered in frost.

The start of the game was subdued, to say the least. Perhaps it was the cold temperatures or maybe it was the fact that Gunnison had no goalie, making for an almost pointless process.

Crested Butte scored 30 seconds into the game as Matt Whiting fed Mike Eaton for the shot on the goalie-free net.

Fortunately, Gunnison managed to bring in “the best goalie in Gunnison County” from the crowd to hang between the pipes for the next couple of minutes. And by that I mean the piece of Plexiglas used for shooting practice, hung from the crossbar, affectionately known as “the best goalie in Gunnison County.”

With a “goalie” in net, Gunnison managed to push farther up-ice and the effort paid off as Gunnison player and former Gunnison Blade Shane McGuiness roofed the puck a minute later to tie the game 1-1.

Crested Butte retook the lead four minutes into the game when Deuce Wynes fired a wrister from the point and Mike Lauerman tipped it into the upper corner. Crested Butte then jumped out 3-1 on a goal from Wynes but Gunnison fired back when Evan Milski scored in the sixth minute of the first period.

The next two minutes meant more of the same as Crested Butte pulled ahead 4-2 on a goal from Whiting and then 30 seconds later former Michigan Tech and Southern Professional Hockey League player Jake “from State Farm” Johnstone scored to pull Gunnison back to within one.

Zach Vaughter then arrived and Gunnison opted to pull “the best goalie in Gunnison County” for Vaughter, sticking him between the pipes for the remainder of the game.

At this point, things started to ramp up in intensity. Vaughter stacked the pads to deny a shot in close and both teams had warmed up to the idea that there was some hockey to be played.

Vaughter opened the second period with two more brilliant saves, proving to be better than “the best goalie in Gunnison County” and Gunnison had Crested Butte pinned for a 30-second flurry that resulted in a game-tying goal when the puck hit off of someone’s helmet and into the Crested Butte net.

Gunnison tacked on two more goals in the next three minutes and the momentum had swung their way almost entirely as they were riding high on a two-goal lead, but Whiting, being the cold assassin he can be, took matters into his own hands, breaking free to beat Vaughter one-on-one with the “trickler” pulling Crested Butte back to within one heading into the third period.

Another big save from Vaughter to open the third period proved fortuitous and Gunnison charged right back up-ice to score as Scott Shondeck delivered an apparent insurance goal to put Gunnison up 7-5 two minutes into the third period.

Given the fact that the other Monarch Cup games were decided in the waning seconds, chances were the game was far from over and that proved true over the next several minutes. Rumored former Nittany Lion hockey player Logan Demarcus helped spark a comeback from Crested Butte with his work on defense. Lauerman pulled Crested Butte back to within one, scoring from the high slot five minutes into the third period.

Former Crested Butte Wolfpack and CSU Ram player Sam Reaman then went to work. The first two periods Reaman proved ineffective, except for the one penalty he garnered, but he assured the fans that he would go to work in the third period and he came through, tying the game a minute after Lauerman’s strike and then netting his second goal of the period off an assist from Mike O’Laughlin to put Crested Butte back on top 8-7.

Time started to dwindle down and when the clock turned on the final minute, Gunnison pulled their goalie and went to work. Gunnison tied the game 8-8 with 28 seconds left in regulation and then Johnstone struck once more for Gunnison, scoring with nine seconds left to ice the 9-8 Gunnison win.

The two teams will square off once again in January, date and time to be determined.

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