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Titans’ hockey splits games over weekend

“We’d better have a good week of practice”

by Than Acuff

The Crested Butte Titans hockey team split their games over the weekend, falling to the Kent Denver Sun Devils 5-0 Friday, January 19 but recovered to beat the Palmer Terrors 5-1 on Saturday, January 20, snapping a three-game skid.

The Titans hit the road on Friday to face the Sun Devils and found out the hard way what a poor week of practices and poor preparation for a game can cause in a game.

“They were taking short-cuts during practices and it showed,” says coach Jake Johnstone.

The Titans fell behind 2-0 after the first period, played relatively even hockey with Kent Denver in the second period, but then gave up three more goals in the third period to fall 5-0.

“They weren’t ready to play,” says Johnstone. “We should have won that one. Having seen what they are capable of doing, they just weren’t there. They have a tendency to play down to a team and that’s what happened and the game got away.”

Johnstone had a talk with his team following the game to find out what they needed and to point out that what they do during the week can end up affecting them on the weekend.

“I stressed the importance of good practice habits and that they need to go all-out every drill the way I draw it out,” says Johnstone.

Johnstone made a few adjustments to certain aspects of their game and had a more direct hand in the pre-game preparation the next day as they took to the ice against the Palmer Terrors. In addition, Johnstone used the game to hone in on a few different things for the team, asking them to run two specific face-off plays and asking the defensemen to look for other options from the point rather than blindly playing the puck to the net.

In the end, the small tweaks, the more focused warm-up and the overall change in attitude made a difference, as the Titans skated to a 5-1 win over Palmer.

“We were trying to do more of the stuff we work on in practice,” says Johnstone.

Kaden Hardesty opened the scoring two minutes into the game, scoring off an assist from Sam Stepanek. Dylan Frazier scored three minutes later off assists from Hardesty and Michael Hensley, and Colten Crittendon tacked on a third goal midway through the first period. Stepanek capped the attack, scoring in the 12th minute of the period to give the Titans a 4-0 lead and force the Terrors to pull their goalie.

The Terrors finished the first period by scoring a lone goal but the Titans struck again nine minutes into the second period as Joseph Stock scored and the Titans maintained their puck domination the rest of the game to seal the 5-1 win.

“We had a lot better puck movement and a lot better support on the ice than the night before,” says Johnstone.

The team will now prepare for one of their toughest challenges of the season as they hit the road to face perennial 5A hockey power Valor Christian this weekend. Valor Christian is 11-0 right now with only eight goals scored on them, while averaging more than nine goals per game.

“We’d better have a good week of practice,” says Johnstone. “I always tell them that whichever team makes fewer mistakes, no matter who is ranked what, you still have a chance.”

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