Town league hockey opens in fine form as brewers battle the boards

There was a dog, there was puking and… there was a tie

by Than Acuff

What more could you ask for out of the opening game to the 2016 town league hockey season? We had a dog on the ice, we had a puker and we had a comeback. I guess the only thing that would have made it even better is if the game had not ended in a tie because no one likes a tie, though I bet Ska Brewing was pretty stoked.

At any rate, the 2016 town league season got off to an auspicious start, whatever auspicious means, with a dog running loose on the ice and one of my favorite teams, the Eldo, facing off against another team, Ska Brewing, formerly known as the Red Army, or the Dan Loftus Experience, or Where’s Gutter!? Or the Brick Oven.

photos by Lydia Stern
photos by Lydia Stern

Ska Brewing, at least most of them, are fresh off a title run in the Gunnison Fall League and should be weeks ahead of most of the teams out there. But after watching them struggle through the opening period of play, one (and by one I mean one person, and that one person is me) was left wondering, had the Fall League title drained them of their mojo for the Winter League?

Credit should go where credit is due though as the Eldo brought their patented style of no holds barred hustle to the ice. From their worst player to their best, the Eldo goes 9-0. Case in point, one of their not so talented players spent some time bowing to the bucket at the end of the bench in between shifts.

Emerson Wohlers set the pace early for both teams, flying like a squirrel up and down the ice for Ska Brewing in the opening minutes, but the discipline of the Eldo’s defense anchored by Hank Deroche had everything sewn up tight in front of their net. The few times Ska Brewing did get through, Eldo net minder Mike Preston was spot on in net. Or, Ska Brewing would just miss the net entirely.

While the Eldo continued to set the tone for the game in the second period, Ska Brewing managed to find some seams to net but their shots continued to miss the mark. The Eldo’s work finally paid off seven minutes into the second period as Don Turner found an opening in the Ska Brewing defense to score. Wide open hockey ensued with both teams trading off rushes on net but both Mike Preston and Deuce Wynes came through in goal. Ska Brewing player Ben Preston sliced though the Eldo defense to get a clear look on net but Mike Preston, no relation, was there to deny. Moments later Matt Cahir blew past two Ska Brewing players to skate onto goal but Wynes shut him down.

It took a slight breakdown in the Ska Brewing positioning and the expansive vision of Mikey Weil to set up the Eldo’s second goal. With Ska Brewing pressing in the Eldo’s zone, Weil retrieved a loose puck in the melee and found Paul O’Connor breaking loose up ice. O’Connor took the puck in stride and skated straight to net to score for a 2-0 Eldo lead heading into the third period.

But Ska Brewing is no team of slouches and they continued to push, creating another series of chances on the Eldo net. Their persistence finally paid off as Billy Rankin skated the puck out of the Ska zone and dumped it deep into the Eldo zone. Ben Preston chased down the puck and found Rankin following the play with a pass and Rankin scored to pull Ska within one with five minutes left.

Ska then took control of the game, pressing hard and firing shots to keep the Eldo pinned in their zone. Ska pulled their goalie with a minute left and then called a timeout with 46 seconds left to organize their final attack.

The Eldo held off the initial surge and managed to clear the puck but Wohlers chased it down and turned it right back up ice. Ska set up and proceeded to fire shots at will. Mike Preston made what appeared to be a game-saving kick save, then flopped to the ice to make another save but Dick Whiting corralled the loose puck and fed Frank Konsella in front for the game-tying goal in the final seconds of the game.

Gotta love town league.

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