Alumni game Saturday, December 30
by Than Acuff
The Crested Butte Titans hockey team notched two more league wins over the weekend, taking down the Mullen Mustangs twice in two days.
Head coach Jake Johnstone used the weekend to continue working with his players to get a better idea of how they play in certain situations.
“I was throwing in mixes and matches, different guys on different lines to try some stuff out,” explains Johnstone. “See different kids in different spots.”
The Titans opened the weekend with their first home game of the season on Friday, December 15. Typically, in the first home game of the season the Titans are a bundle of nerves but they appeared calm, cool and collected in the opening minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Aiden Gunderson opened the scoring in the sixth minute as he snagged the puck off the boards and skated above the face-off circle to slip a wrist shot past the Mullen goalie. Forty seconds later, the Titans struck again as Luke Collins found Ted Trujillo behind the Mullen defense with a pinpoint pass and Trujillo poked it through for a 2-0 lead.
Titans goalie Shaughn Roarke came up with a big stop on a one-on-one to hold the two-goal lead intact but the game started to shift in favor of Mullen as the first period closed.
The Mustangs picked up their game in the second period and despite the Titans outshooting Mullen 22-8 in the second period, Mullen made the most of their chances, netting two goals to tie the game 2-2. The Titans had a chance to regain the momentum with a 5v3 situation toward the end of the second period but their chances flew wide or were turned away.
“We got a comfortable lead to start and I think distractions got in the way of the second period,” says Johnstone.
The Titans opened the third period on a power play and appeared more energized, knocking on the door with quality puck possession, but the back of the net continued to elude them. They finally cracked the seal for a third time nine minutes into the third period as Walker Carroll skated in off the blue line to fire a shot through traffic and past the goalie. A little over a minute later, Matt Solanik picked up a puck in neutral ice and dropped the lone defender to skate across the face of the goal and finish with a backhand for a 4-2 Titans lead.
Mullen pulled their goalie with two minutes left and after a couple of empty net attempts by the Titans, Slater Weil capped the win with 43 seconds left, finding the target with a shot for the 5-2 Titans win. Roarke finished the game stopping 17 of 19 shots.
The Titans returned to the ice on Saturday, December 16 to square off against Mullen once again, and despite a total of 54 penalty minutes doled out by the officials, the Titans remained focused.
“It was a good learning lesson throughout the game for them,” says Johnstone. “We got to work on special teams a lot and I found my penalty killers, still working on the offensive end of things with special teams.”
Kaden Hardesty broke the scoreless tie 10 minutes into the second period, scoring off an assist from Michael Hensley. The Titans tacked on a second goal a minute later as Dylan Frazier found the back of the net but Mullen pulled back to within one early in the third period to turn the heat up on the Titans.
It wasn’t until the 16th minute that the Titans finally gained some breathing room as Hensley scored off assists from Colten Crittendon and Joe Coburn to seal the 3-1 win. Clayton Freed stood between the pipes for the Titans, stopping 26 of 27 shots.
“I felt like that was our most complete team effort of the season,” says Johnstone. “We won both games in the third period—they’re figuring out how to finish games.”
The Titans hockey team will lace up their skates for the annual Alumni game on Saturday, December 30 at Big Mine Ice Arena. They return to league action when they hit the road on Friday, January 5 to face Rampart.