Never ceases to entertain
by Than Acuff
It was another Who’s Who, both on and off the ice, at the annual holiday season high school hockey alumni game on Friday, December 30 at Big Mine Ice Arena. Suffice to say, the alumni hockey game may now be one of the last legitimate local events left in this ever-changing town.
With the alumni adorned in the Wolfpack uniforms, a bench 20-plus deep and a band of “coaches,” they laced up the skates to take on the current Titans high school hockey team. And after three periods of play, composure and continuity was the difference, once again, as the Titans pulled away for the 6-4 win.
The alumni roster included players from throughout the past 15 years, with Ryan Boulding class of ‘04 being the oldest alumni suited up. The team also included players such as Nathan Lacy, Mo Gillie, John Tharpe, Daniel Hargrove, Ben Frame, the Reaman brothers, the Wiggins brothers, the Curtiss brothers (the family award goes to the Collinses though, as there were three of them playing between the two teams), Jake Grogg, Isaac Evans, Walker Carroll, Danny Stoneberg … the list goes on and on and on of former local players on the ice. Even ref alumni were in attendance as Brad Crosby put on the stripes for the auspicious occasion.
It’s almost the same thing every year as the alumni come out fired up, searching for the glory days of old and looking to show the young upstarts a thing or two they learned after high school (besides consumption) playing collegiate club hockey, Juniors or random city league puck.
This time around was no different, at least for the first half of the first period, as the alumni ran roughshod through the seemingly confused and intimidated Titans team. Alumni goalie Cam Curtiss came up with a big save early on and the alumni built off of that, scoring in the sixth minute as they caught the Titans in a shift change and Jack Collins found wide-open ice to the net and roofed his shot for a 1-0 alumni lead.
The alumni celebration and domination lasted all of about five minutes, when the Titans struck back as newly acquired player Dom Piccaro sliced through several alumni players up the boards to feed the puck into the slot. A bit of mayhem ensued as players swung their sticks hopelessly at the bouncing puck until John Smith connected to push it through.
Four minutes later the Titans scored on a powerplay as coach Billy Watson skated up ice, drawing the alumni out of position and dropping it back to Jack Lambert, who celebrated his 15th birthday that evening with a goal for a 2-1 Titans lead.
The Titans struck a third time in the 16th minute as Joseph Stock finished a nice sequence of passes by the Titans and the alumni found themselves deep in a 3-1 hole.
But, the alumni—being what they are, a rag-tag band of actually fairly talented players with a lot to prove—recovered late in the first. Faced with yet another penalty kill situation, the alumni rallied in the final minute of play as Ben Barrett took advantage of a disheveled Titans attack and broke loose to score and pull the alumni back into the game heading into the break.
The Titans opened the second period with another powerplay (go figure) and they proceeded to rebuild their two-goal lead. While the alumni scrapped together brief glimpses of individual glory, teamwork paved the way for the Titans’ fourth goal as Sam Stepanek set up Graham Barrett for the score.
The alumni energy is hard to quash though, and as their “coaching” staff barked out somewhat incoherent orders completely nonsensical in nature, the players remained focused on the task at hand—saving face. It took a little magic midway through the second period to restore said face as Ben Reaman was noticeably tired of the little high school players in his way and proceeded to dice through three in a row and find his brother Sam Reaman on the opposite side skating to net with a perfect pass and Sam buried it for what would be considered the goal of the game.
Energized by another break between the second and third periods and fresh ice provided by the Crested Butte Parks and Rec crew (and covered by Greg Wiggins), the alumni looked to continue to come back and perhaps, just perhaps, take the win.
But the Titans, and Piccaro in particular, had something else in mind. While the alumni were surging and threatening to tie the game up, Piccaro weaved through the mass of alums on the ice to score to put the Titans back on top by two goals with eight minutes left to play.
Just when things looked to fall out of control for the alumni, they got a little gift from one Aiden Gunderson and a massive screen in the slot. Gunderson took the puck at the point and fired “the dark one”—a shot that seemed to slow down time itself as the puck matrixed its way through five players and past the Titans goalie to pull the Titans back to within one goal, once again.
Unfortunately for the alumni, two minutes later Watson took matters into his own hands, destroying the alumni almost single-handedly to score and put the finishing touches on the 6-4 Titans high school team win.