“The kids did a great job of executing”
[ by Than Acuff ]
The Crested Butte Titans hockey team’s record now stands at 4-0 after trouncing the Summit Tigers 9-3 on Friday, February 12 and are currently ranked first in the state in class 4A.
The Titans came out slow in the first period as Summit’s puck pressure and overall pace had Crested Butte struggling to create any cohesion up and down the ice. Their confusion eventually became blatantly clear as a poorly timed line change left a clear lane to net for Summit and they scored just 90 seconds into the game.
Three minutes later Summit’s effort paid off once again as pressure in the Titans defensive zone offered up a no angle shot from a Summit player. The puck found a fortuitous deflection on its way to net and slipped past Titan netminder TJ Wonnacott for a 2-0 Summit lead.
Things looked to go from bad to worse for Crested Butte as a penalty gave Summit a powerplay one minute later. The Titans killed off the penalty but their passes remained errant and entrances into the offensive zone were disjointed.
“Our breakout wasn’t working and we weren’t moving the puck well and that’s one of our biggest strengths,” says coach Billy Watson.
Eventually the Titans’ overall talent advantage played out as Grady Lipoma slipped a pass up ice to Rowan Piccaro and Piccaro beat the lone Summit defenseman to stuff the shot top shelf.
Wonnacott also seemed to gain his focus after the first two goals and came up with some saves in the waning minutes of the first period to hold Summit’s lead to one headed into the break.
“I feel like Rowan’s goal was pretty crucial,” says Watson. “That helped us build some momentum for the second period.”
Watson and the coaches used the break between periods to make a few changes to aspects of their game including their breakouts and the players responded.
As they have in a number of games so far this season, the Titans then came to life in the second period. Jack Lambert started it off when he circled around the back of the net to pick up a rebound and stuff it home to tie the game two minutes into the second period.
Crested Butte continued to ramp up their effort and Lambert struck again in the seventh minute on a backhand. Ten seconds later Lipoma slipped in off the blue line to blast his shot through traffic and past the goalie and the Titans were up 4-2 forcing Summit to call a timeout.
The break did nothing to slow down Crested Butte as they picked up right where they left off. A series of passes set up Matthew Trujillo for an open shot on net. The Summit goalie made the initial save but Lambert was there again on the back post to net the rebound for a 5-2 lead forcing Summit to switch out goalies.
“We changed some things up on our breakout and started moving the puck well,” says Watson. “The kids did a great job of executing.”
Two minutes later a Summit penalty gave the Titans a powerplay and they went straight to work as patience with the puck and solid passing set up Trujillo in the high slot and he scored for a 6-2 Titans’ lead after two periods of play.
“I’ve told them time and time again that a forced play is a missed opportunity on the powerplay and to stay calm, cool and collected,” explains Watson. “Summit didn’t pressure much during their penalty kill so we were able to move the puck and it looked good.”
Summit opened the third period with a goal but before they could continue to gain traction against the Titans, they picked up another penalty. Crested Butte capitalized on the situation as Piccaro slipped a pass through the slot to Lambert sitting on the post to score his fourth goal of the game.
Piccaro then set up the Titans’ eighth goal of the game as he skated to net for a one-on-one. The goalie skated out to cut off the angle and the two collided leaving Sam Buckhanan to clean up the mess and push the loose puck into the Summit empty net. Piccaro and Lambert connected one last time in the final minute of the game to finish off the 9-3 win.
The Titans return home for a couple of games that could test the mettle of the team as they host Glenwood Springs on Friday, February 19 at 5:45 p.m. and then again on Saturday, February 20 at noon.
“They’re a good team with a good goalie and they have given up the least amount of goals in the league,” says Watson. “We may not have the scoring production that we usually have so our defense needs to buckle down. That’s what wins championships. I’d rather be the team that gives up the least amount of goals than the team that scores the most amount of goals.”
Check out the Crested Butte Titans athletics Facebook page to watch a live stream of both games.