Get a glimpse of top tier play against Valor Christian
by Than Acuff
The Crested Butte Titans hockey team split their two games with Pueblo over the weekend before facing league-leading Valor Christian on Tuesday, February 7 and falling 7-0.
Pueblo would prove to be a tough showdown for the Titans. On paper they had mixed it up with some of the top teams in the league and dropped games to teams the Titans had beat so it was a question of who showed up for the game.
In their first meeting on Friday, February 3, the Titans showed up, actually, goalie Cam Curtiss showed up and the team fed off of his effort in net.
“Cam played his best game of the season by far,” says coach Joey Otsuka. “He was definitely the rock in that game.”
The Titans opened the scoring three minutes into the game with their play in the neutral zone making the difference as Graham Barrett scored off a set up from Josh Wallin and Patrick Seifert slipping the puck past the massive frame of Pueblo’s 6’5” goalie.
“They had a neutral zone breakdown and we countered on that to create an odd man rush,” says Otsuka.
The two teams played scoreless hockey in the second period as Curtiss continued his stellar work in net while the Titans struggled to adapt to Pueblo’s style of play.
“Their team is more run-and-gun style of play and we hadn’t really seen that so it was sort of confusing for our guys,” explains Otsuka. “It was like trying to hold a fish.”
Pueblo scored on a powerplay ten minutes into the third period to tie the game 1-1 but Barrett tacked on his second goal of the game two minutes later and Luke Collins added an insurance goal in the 16th minute to ice the 3-1 Titans win.
The win came at a cost though as the Titans lost second line center Gage Meredith to injury. Things got worse for the Titans as they lost defenseman Colton Crittendon early in the second game against Pueblo causing more chaos among the Titan players as Pueblo skated to a 5-1 win. Seifert had the lone Crested Butte goal.
“The change of personnel put an edge of uncertainty in a lot of the players’ heads,” says Otsuka. “It was a good back and forth game but the degree of momentum Pueblo was able to collect over the course of the game put us at a disadvantage.”
The Titans then returned home for the toughest challenge of the season as they hosted Valor Christian in Gunnison on Tuesday, February 7. Valor Christian sits at the top of the league standings and is ranked third in the state.
The Titans appeared a bit nervous to start but as the first period wore on, the Titans matched up well with Valor Christian trading off rushes on net and matching Valor Christian’s speed.
Curtiss came up with two big saves midway through the period including shutting down a one-on-one breakaway but Valor Christian eventually broke the seal with three minutes left to take a 1-0 lead.
The Titans opened the second period on fire as all three lines were contributing and the defense stout but Valor Christian’s penalty kill led to a Titan miscue and Valor Christian capitalized to go up 2-0.
The Titans started pressing again midway through the period and got a couple of good looks on net but Valor Christian held off the Titan push and tacked on a third goal.
Things got a little haywire with penalties the next four minutes as the two teams played several minutes of 4 v. 4 and 3 v. 3 hockey. The teams traded off attacks but when the penalties cleared, Valor Christian forced another Titan miscue to score closing the second period up 4-0.
Midway through the third period the Titans had a 5 v. 3 advantage on the ice but struggled to find the back of the net and Valor Christian slowly but surely scored three more goals to finish off the Titans 7-0.
Crested Butte remains at home this weekend as they host Coronado on Friday, February 10 at 4 p.m. and then Kent Denver on Saturday, February 11 at 12:45 p.m.