Prepare for homestand this weekend
by Than Acuff
A late game surge including scoring three goals in a span of two minutes led to the Crested Butte Titans 5-2 win over the Palmer Terrors on Saturday, January 7.
“It was a good first two periods and then the third period was just show-time,” says head coach Joey Otsuka.
Per league rules, team practices are forbidden for a majority of the holiday break—that left it up to the players as individuals to remain on point. When the Titans did return to team workouts, Otsuka could tell they had done the homework he assigned them during the down time.
“When we stepped back on the ice it showed that they took the advice I gave them,” says Otsuka. “You could tell they had a lot of really good chemistry going, especially on the line of Lucas Solanik, Jordi Nichols and Gage Meredith.”
The Titans headed to Colorado Springs and, thanks to the internet, the players had an idea that they could easily win the Palmer match up. As a result, the two teams squared off through the first two periods of play as Palmer proved far more resilient than the Titan players expected.
“For the first two periods it looked like our guys were playing like Palmer was just going to roll over but they play really hard hockey and put in a tough effort,” says Otsuka.
Palmer opened the scoring in the first minute and held their lead until the seventh minute when the Titans scored on a power play as Walker Carroll assisted Luke Collins on the goal.
Crested Butte took a 2-1 lead six minutes into the second period as Patrick Seifert scored but Palmer tied it back up in the final minute to send the teams into the third period tied 2-2.
The difference in the game came in the 12th minute during a power play. As the Titans carried the puck up-ice, Josh Wallin set up to look for options and when they didn’t present he blasted a low, hard shot through traffic to put the Titans up 3-2.
“That really set the tone for the next couple of minutes,” says Otsuka.
After a slight lull, the second line of Nichols, Meredith and Solanik took over, firing off two goals in a span of 17 seconds. Solanik provided the first strike off an assist from Nichols and then all three players were in on the next goal, with Meredith providing the finishing touch to seal the 5-2 Titans win.
“That second line really won the game for us,” says Otsuka.
The Titans will have a week to prepare for their next big challenge as they host Valor Christian, which sits in first place in the standings.
As part of preparation for this game and the rest of the season, Otsuka has his team working on their forecheck, hoping to create opportunities in their opponent’s end.
“That will really help us against the tougher teams in the league,” explains Otsuka. “We strategically dump the puck, we don’t just dump the puck to make changes. It beats the other team up both mentally and physically. Having that in our toolbox will really help us.”
The Titans face Valor Christian on Friday in Gunnison at 6 p.m. and then again on Saturday at 4 p.m.