Holy Grail remains at home
by Than Acuff
After rattling off four wins in a row during pool play in the Southwest Cup men’s hockey tournament, the Crested Butte Storm continued their winning ways, sealing the tournament title on Sunday, March 10 with a 6-1 win in the championship game.
In the women’s division, a combination of former Red Ladies and former Gunnison Blades players teamed up as the Misconducts to rise above three other teams and take the women’s Southwest Cup title with a resounding 6-0 win in their finals game.
The men’s tournament drew six teams total, a number of which hailed from the Gunnison Valley with some out-of-town influences. And while the Storm rolled to four wins in a row starting on Friday, March 8, three of those wins were close battles with the Storm edging out two of the wins by just one goal.
The four-win roll had them advance to the finals to face the Nooks, a team of mysterious origin that included former Western State College club players as well as contacts from the Front Range, who won their final game of open play to punch their ticket to the finals.
The Storm took immediate control of the game in the opening minutes and it became clear that, while the Nooks had a couple of extremely talented players and a solid goalie, the Storm had the deeper bench and quicker feet.
The Storm had the Nooks spinning in their skates as fast footwork and precise passing resulted in dominant puck possession. The initial Storm shots were turned away by the talented Nooks goalie but they eventually broke the seal on the goal five minutes into the game when John Barron’s effort at the blue line set up Mike Lauerman for the first goal.
The Nooks responded a minute later as they caught the Storm out of position on offense and turned up ice for a 3-on-1 and found the back of the net to tie the game up 1-1.
The tie lasted all of about one minute though, as the Storm’s defensemen of Adam Ofsterdahl, Steve Kay, Barron and Deuce Wynes remained spot-on in their duties, shutting off all attempts by the Nooks to break the puck out of their zone.
The Storm retook the lead in the ninth minute when Joe Erickson bullied his way through the high slot to lay the puck for Billy Watson and Watson spun for the backhand no-look shot past the Nooks’ goalie and a 2-1 lead.
The Nooks threatened late in the period when a player found an open lane to net but seasoned veteran netminder Mike Potts made the required save and the Storm carried their 2-1 lead into the second period.
The Nooks found themselves pinned for most of the opening minutes of the second period as the Storm sought to bury the game early. The initial flurry of Storm shots missed the mark or were turned away but when the Nooks looked to ice the puck for relief, Ben Reaman grabbed it out of midair, dropped to the ice and fired a shot past the Nooks goalie for a 3-1 Storm lead.
A minute later Wynes carried the puck up the wing and found Mile O’Laughlin alone behind the net. O’Laughlin returned the puck back to Wynes skating to net and Wynes flicked it into the upper corner for a 4-1 lead.
Potts came through again to stop a one-on-one, Ofsterdahl recovered to catch a cherry-picking Nook from behind to deny a shot and the Storm then tacked on a fifth goal six minutes into the third period. While the Nooks were pressing, Ofsterdahl found a lane up the boards and behind the net to then feed Erickson in the slot for the shot and goal.
At this point the Nooks had all but given up as they left a man circling in neutral ice looking for a breakaway. The Storm defense had neutral ice all wrapped up though, and when the Nooks looked to push up ice, a turnover sent the Storm charging the other way for a 3-on-1. Lauerman started the attack, laid the puck off to Reaman, who played it back to Lauerman. Lauerman then looked across the ice to Erickson and Erickson finished off the man-man-man-son goal to ice the 6-1 win and keep the Holy Grail at home.