Last period barrage results in Blades victory over Wolfpack

Hustle carries team for only so long

The Crested Butte Wolfpack continues to make strides to playing better team hockey but there was little they could do to hold off the Gunnison Blades A team in Gunnison on Wednesday, January 14.



Pure hustle and the work of Wolfpack goalie Zach Van Dyke kept Crested Butte in the game for two of the three periods of hockey.
Savvy poke checks and explosive transitions up-ice continued to confound the Blades’ attack preventing them from establishing their rhythm for the first two periods.
Yet, every time the Blades did maintain control of the puck, their passing attack and movement of the puck proved lethal.
Fortunately, Van Dyke was on fire, denying the Blades several opportunities in close the first 10 minutes of the game.
It took a defensive miscue by the Wolfpack at the blue line to offer up the Blades first strike of the game, as Blades skater Stefan Whiting picked up a loose puck and charged straight to the net. Van Dyke stopped Whiting but Luke Schumacher followed to push the rebound past Van Dyke, giving the Blades a 1-0 lead.
The Blades seized on the shift in momentum and continued to press the Wolfpack in their own zone, cutting off clearing passes and winning draws.
The effort paid off for the Blades as Erik Seidel chased down a puck in the corner and fed Evan Ayers in the slot for the Blades second strike of the opening period.
 Still, there’s something about Gunnison that always fires up the Wolfpack and despite falling behind 2-0, Crested Butte regrouped to counterattack the final two minutes of the opening period. Sam Evans and Robbie Holleran ultimately connected in the final 30 seconds of the period, when the work of Evans set up Holleran in the slot for a Wolfpack goal.
 The Crested Butte defense clamped down in the second period, breaking up transition rushes by the Blades and hustling back to deny lanes to the Crested Butte net.
When Gunnison did push through, Van Dyke was there time and time again, including two brilliant glove saves to shut down two attempts to the upper triangle, adding to his total of 35 saves on the night.
The work of Evans paid off once again for the Wolfpack as he proceeded to out-hustle the entire Gunnison defense to chase down a loose puck on the boards.
Evans fired a no-look pass to the slot as the Blades scrambled back but Holleran was already in position for the one-timer in the slot, tying the game 2-2 with three minutes left in the second period.
Gunnison responded in the waning seconds of the second period, when a save by Van Dyke kicked out to the far post and Evan Ayers crashed the weak side to push the loose puck through, giving the Blades a 3-2 lead with one period left to play.
A penalty offered Gunnison a power play in the fourth minute of the third period and the Wolfpack scrambled to hold off the Blades’ attack. A melee in front of the Wolfpack net resulted in a second penalty as Holleran was sent to the penalty box for two minutes. Holleran’s obvious displeasure with the call added insult to injury as he was charged with an additional 10-minute game misconduct, leaving the Wolfpack two men down and ending the game for Holleran.
Gunnison made quick work of their two-man advantage as Andy Howard picked the near post with a slap shot, putting the Blades on top 4-2.
Without the assistance of Holleran, Evans took it upon himself to try to salvage the game. The Wolfpack defense continued to hustle, shutting off clear lanes to their net and clearing the puck out of their zone.
Evans jumped on a clearing pass, out-skating the entire Blades team to take the puck to net and push it through cutting the Gunnison lead back down to one with six minutes left in the game.
Crested Butte ultimately folded though, under constant pressure from the Gunnison team as Schumacher and Seidel each scored in the waning minutes of the game to seal the 6-3 Gunnison win.
The Wolfpack now have their hands full as they close the regular season with several games against the top teams in the league. The Wolfpack’s next game in the valley is in Gunnison against the Blades B team on Wednesday, January 28 at 7:45 p.m. Their next home game was scheduled for Saturday, January 31 against Durango but Durango opted to forfeit rather than play at Big Mine Ice Arena.

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