“It came down to hard work in the end”
by Than Acuff
After splitting games with Steamboat the week before at home, the Crested Butte Titans hockey team hit the road last weekend for two games against Aspen and split those as well, winning on Friday, December 13 before falling to Aspen on Saturday, December 14.
The loss to Steamboat stung and they recovered to throttle them in the second game 7-2, looking to use that as a jumping off point for the next couple of games against Aspen.
“After that loss to Steamboat we felt like every game mattered and we wanted to be prepared going into the weekend,” says assistant captain Chris Myers. “We worked on quite a few more systems, breakouts, regroups and power plays.”
All the work means nothing though if you don’t bring it to the game in for the opening minutes of the first game against Aspen. The Titans did not bring their energy. With Aspen pumped up by their raucous hometown crowd, they dictated the speed and physicality of the game.
“Aspen was fast and very aggressive and we opened playing timid, losing 50-50 battles on the puck and in the corners,” says Myers.
The Titans held off the opening Aspen surge though and as the first period wore on, they started finding their edge and closed the first period with a power play goal by Joseph Stock for a 1-0 lead.
“The older kids stepped up and the younger players realized it wasn’t that scary out there and after the power play goal we got some confidence,” says Myers.
The second period proved to be a battle as Aspen opened with a goal, Crested Butte scored on a power play in the fifth minute, Aspen tied it back up 2-2 and then Stock struck again for a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
“We were fore-checking well, creating a lot of offense but our tape to tape passing was off,” says Myers. “We were kind of just flinging the puck around and weren’t being patient with it.”
Aspen scored in the opening minutes of the third period to tie the game up once again, igniting the hometown crowd. Crested Butte remained composed though, and continued to outwork Aspen through the third period. Their effort ultimately paid off as Braydon Duncan scored in the 14th minute of the third period and then Adam Collins iced the 5-3 win with an empty net goal.
“It came down to hard work in the end,” says Myers. “We just wanted it more than Aspen.”
The two teams met again on Saturday, December 14 and found themselves embroiled in another intense ski town showdown. Aspen jumped out to a 2-0 lead before a power play goal by Graham Barrett cut it in half by the end of the opening period.
“I thought we came out better in the first period and had a much stronger period,” says Myers. “We just had some defensive lapses and unlucky bounces but there was no panic and everyone was composed.”
Goals from Collins and Stock in the second period kept Crested Butte in the mix but Aspen netted one as well and the two teams were locked up 3-3 heading into the third period.
Crested Butte struck first in the third period to take their first lead all game but Aspen responded with two goals over the course of the final period to edge out the 5-4 win, leaving the Titans with another split weekend.
“We didn’t stop playing after taking the lead,” says Myers. “We wanted to get another goal to deflate them. I still think we played well and were playing hard.”
The Titans remain on the road this weekend as they head to Denver for a game against Palmer on Friday, December 20 and then they face Woodland Park on Saturday, December 21.
“Unfortunately a lot of players right now are sick,” says Myers. “We’re feeling good going in tactically but we’re just not sure about our numbers and our health.”