Down to the wire
by Than Acuff
Shootouts, blow-outs and knock-outs, the Crested Butte town league hockey playoffs have been nothing if not exciting and will all come to a head at the championship game on Thursday, March 14 at 6:45 p.m. at Big Mine Ice Arena.
But before we get there, we’ve got to get through the other rounds happening earlier this week as four teams were left standing after the games on Monday and Tuesday, march 11-12.
Before I go there though, this week in emails! Vydox will increase my…
Clark’s Market’s run came to an end Monday losing to REG 4-3 in the loser’s bracket while Kochevar’s destroyed the defending champions, the Eldo, 9-2 leaving REG and Kochevar’s with an ever-so-slight chance to make it to the big show. But the game this week between Ska Brewing and The Last Steep Tuesday night took center stage as the winner would advance to the finals and the loser drop down to battle with the bloodthirsty denizens of the loser’s bracket.
And oh, what a game it was.
Ska entered the post-season the number one seed and The Last Steep number two and they played like it Tuesday, March 12 at Big Mine Ice Arena as it took eight rounds in the shootout to decide who would fill one spot in the championship game.
There was no question the game was going to be tight with Roan Perschke in net for The Last Steep and Hunter Dunleavey between the pipes for Ska. While Perschke has done a little time in the town league ranks establishing himself as one of the top netminders, Dunleavey is new to the league this season but has made a name for himself as a premier shot-stopper.
But seedings and reputations mean nothing if you don’t show up when the puck drops. It just so happens both teams showed up for this game with The Last Steep setting the tone in the first period. Their hustle, matched with quality puck possession, made Ska look confused for the opening five minutes of the game. Fortunately, Dunleavey was on point giving Ska an opportunity to find themselves.
Dylan Curtis did provide Ska their only real shot on net four minutes into the period breaking loose and on to net but Perschke turned him away.
While Will Dujardin and Shai Ovadia provided composure and spot on positioning on defense for The Last Steep, Jeremy Herzog led the Ska hustle and Michael Fabbre the defensive foundation but neither team could break the seal on either goal.
That is, until the ninth minute, as Last Steep player/owner Sean Hartigan found himself in the slot, with the puck all alone. While his attempt was turned away, Dennis Magetti was crashing the net and slipped it past Dunleavey for a 1-0 Last Steep lead.
Ska ramped up their effort in the second period and had The Last Step pressed in their own zone leaving them scrambling to clear the puck as defenseman Ashley Brown gave no quarter to The Last Steep players anywhere on the ice. While initial hustle by The Last Steep held off the onslaught, the pressure by Ska finally resulted in a goal when Herzog spun a backhand past Perschke.
At this point there wasn’t a single player on the ice who wasn’t giving it his all, scrambling to block shots, diving to clear pucks and falling because ice is slick.
The stage was then set for a tremendous third period with the teams notched in a 1-1 tie. Phil Dujardin fired shots from the point for The Last Steep, Ska counterattacked off of the saves and then The Last Steep pulled back ahead as Ovadia skated coast-to-coast during a penalty kill to stuff a shorthanded goal top shelf. Thirty seconds later Shane McGuinness put The Last Steep up 3-1 when he picked the upper corner and it looked as if The Last Steep would be sealing their spot in the finals.
But Ska is number one for a reason and they climbed back into the game over the course of the next three minutes. Ska player/owner Dan Loftus led the way for Ska as he found himself in the right place at the right time to score not one, but two goals for Ska to tie the game 3-3 with four minutes left in regulation.
The two teams struggled to find the final game-winning strike in the remaining minutes of regulation as well as during overtime sending the game into a shootout to decide the final outcome.
Cody Scott did his job for The Last Steep as he lifted a backhand over Dunleavey and Fabbre finished five-hole on Perschke but both Perschke and Dunleavey continued to dominate their respective nets, allowing only one goal from the first five shooters on each team, forcing the shootout into a second round of three shooters per team.
Magetti opened the second round with a wicked backhand move to put The Last Steep back on top and Perschke stopped all three Ska shooters to seal the win for The Last Steep, earning them a spot in the finals. Ska heads to the loser’s bracket and all of the playoff insanity comes to a close with the championship game on Thursday, March 14 at 6:45 p.m.