Ski town throw down
by Than Acuff
After dropping a two-goal lead to lose their season-opening game to the Steamboat Springs Sailors on Friday, December 6, the Crested Butte Titans hockey team recovered to sink the Sailors on Saturday, December 7.
It’s been a long three weeks of intense workouts for the Titans leading up to the season-opening weekend, including numerous sessions of ice time before school at 6 a.m. But once they got the chance to lace up the skates for a game, the team was ready to put all of their hard work into play.
“We were definitely pumped up for the first games and excited to be playing them at home in front of a big crowd,” says assistant captain Chris Myers.
Despite the excitement to finally be playing a game, both teams looked a bit lethargic through most of the first period. Each squad traded off minutes of domination and Steamboat got their first good look on a breakaway during a penalty kill situation 14 minutes into the game, but Shaughn Rourke came up with the save to keep the game 0-0.
The Sailors then killed off a penalty minutes later and, once back at full strength, broke the scoreless tie to find the back of the net with just a minute left in the opening period.
The Titans responded though, and had the last say of the first period when Graham Barrett fought through a check along the boards and skated to net to score, to tie the game 1-1.
“That gave us some positive energy going into the locker room and after that it felt like we had the momentum,” says Myers.
The Titans carried that momentum off the late goal to score in the opening minute of the second period when Matthew Solanik scored off an assist from Barrett. Crested Butte had a long stretch playing with a man advantage, sometimes even a two-man advantage, throughout the second period but failed to capitalize on a single power play situation.
“It’s early in the season and we haven’t had a lot of time to work on our systems in the power play,” explains Myers. “We needed to move the puck a second faster to get their defense out of position and be more patient.”
Still, while they fell short on numerous great opportunities, Barrett scored in the waning minutes of the second period for a 3-1 Titans lead.
That lack of scoring during long stretches of power plays eventually spelled the demise of the Titans. Steamboat looked to have shaken off the long bus ride, bringing a quicker step to the ice in the third period and staying out of the penalty box. Playing all even all period long was one of the keys to the Sailors’ success as they rattled off three unanswered goals in the third period to skate away with a 4-3 win.
“That hurt,” says Myers. “They just outworked us and we became complacent.”
The Titans returned to the ice on Saturday to face the Sailors again but got in some key locker room time prior to the second showdown.
“We showed up much earlier and had a long chalk talk,” says Myers.
The Titans wasted no time taking control of the game as Barrett scored off an assist from Matthew Trujillo eight seconds into the game. Two minutes later, Brendan Hartigan scored and then Joseph Stock tacked on a third with a short-handed goal for a quick 3-0 lead.
The Sailors netted one goal on a power play midway through the first period but Crested Butte responded with power play goals from Wiley Bodine and Barrett in the second period to build a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the third period.
“We switched lines up and our formation on the power play and put in a couple of different plays and it just clicked,” says Myers.
Steamboat did manage one more goal in the third but the Titans connected on two more power play goals from Barrett and Stock to ice the 7-2 win.
“We were ready to go right at the drop of the puck and kept the same energy until the end of the game,” says Myers. “We just kept pushing and pushing and didn’t really give them any chance at all.”
The Titans spend the next several weeks playing on the road with their next home games not until the first week of January.