Home for two games this weekend
by Than Acuff
The Titans hockey team hit the road last week to face the Valor Christian Eagles, one of the top teams in the state with a perfect record in league play, racking up insane goal-scoring numbers. Scrolling through their stats, one can see that Valor Christian has beaten nearly everyone soundly with a score line that reads 9-0, 10-0, 7-0, etc., all the while giving up just a smattering of goals.
The Titans got off to a great start in the first game on Friday, January 26 as they took advantage of a loose puck and Ted Trujillo buried a shot just under the crossbar two minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead.
“They were all fired up,” says coach Jake Johnstone.
While Valor eventually established a majority of the puck possession and scored two goals for a 2-1 lead by the end of the first period, the Titans remained on point as best they could.
The Eagles would go on to add a third goal six minutes into the second period and a fourth goal eight minutes into the third period to finish with a 4-1 win. Titans goalie Shaughn Rourke finished the game, stopping 31 of 35 shots. Nevertheless, the coaches were pleased with most of what they saw out of their team.
“The kids finally learned that a full week of consistent practices leads into the weekend,” says Johnstone. “Even though we lost, it was, by far, the best game we’ve played all year, start to finish. They ran the systems we’ve been working on all year, for all three periods. We played very sound defensively. The focus was there. They were out there to play hockey.”
The Titans continue to struggle with their power plays though, and special teams are a key ingredient to pulling off an upset.
“Our power play still needs some work,” says Johnstone. “If we were able to convert on those it would have been a tied game.”
The Titans took the opportunity to watch game film following Friday’s loss in an effort to prepare for their second game against Valor the next day.
“We saw that if you make any mistakes, they’re going to capitalize, they’re that good a team,” says assistant coach Billy Watson.
Crested Butte returned to the Eagles’ ice on Saturday, January 27 for another shot at an upset and carried some of the momentum from the first game effort into the first period, holding Valor to just one goal.
“Defensively we played really tight,” says Watson.
Valor Christian found their scoring touch in the second period to score four goals and then two more in the third period. The Titans did eventually score as Sam Stepanek scored off assists from Slater Weil and Joe Coburn, but Valor emerged triumphant again with a score of 7-1.
“Our defensive breakouts kind of struggled,” says Watson. “We switched things up and I take the blame for that. Our power play also struggled to get the puck down the ice. They just did a great job fore-checking.”
The coaches now look forward to the team continuing to develop their game as the season progresses and as they head into the playoffs.
“We saw a lot of good stuff and it was a learning experience,” says Watson. “The guys saw what’s going to be at the state tourney and they know where they need to be to get to compete and keep the season going as long as we can.”
“I told them, now you know that you have to take it to an entirely different level to be there at the end of the season,” says Johnstone.
The Titans are at home this weekend as they host the Coronado Cougars on Friday, February 2 at 6 p.m. and the Rampart Rams on Saturday, February 3 at 1 p.m. at Jorgensen Arena in Gunnison.