Town league hockey returns to action

Alpine Lumber and Altitude Painting open season

by Than Acuff

Here we go again. Town league hockey opened Monday evening, January 6 at Big Mine Ice Arena and it sure seems like the league continues to build momentum over the past five or so years.

There were some dark days for sure a little while ago but now, never-ever players have developed into legitimate mid-range talent and some of the top-end players have started getting up off their couches and rejoining the league. West Elk Hockey Association director of hockey Paul O’Connor was at opening night and even commented on the resurgence of the old guard, saying, “They’ve come back to the pasture.”

And what an opening game it was, as Alpine Lumber and Altitude Painting skated hard through three periods of hockey, trading off surges to ultimately end up with a 3-3 tie. True, ties suck, but they’re better than blowouts and this tie wasn’t half bad.

Furthermore, the season opened in classic style as Bruce Winchenbach (one of the aforementioned newbies turned talent) scored the first goal of the season in the first minute of the first period to put Altitude Painting up 1-0.

Alpine Lumber turned up the heat following that first goal with Jonathan Seiver pushing the puck for Alpine into the offensive zone and Mark Goldberg posting up on the pipe, looking to shove the puck past Altitude goalie Shawn Harrington. While Goldberg was shut down by Harrington, Alpine continued to push the pace and as Seiver and other Alpine Lumber players grew tired, Drew Layman picked up the pace, eventually skating coast-to-coast through a host of spinning defensemen to stop short of the net and fire a shot past Harrington to tie the game 1-1.

Two minutes later Altitude Painting responded to retake the lead as Joe Erickson read Alpine Lumber’s breakout to intercept a pass and fire a quick wrist shot, catching Alpine goalie Lucas McMullan off guard.

Altitude then closed the first period and opened the second period with a powerplay, but Alpine’s penalty kill proved stout, leaving nothing open for Altitude and when Alpine returned to full strength, they fed off of the penalty kill to retake the momentum. Cody Scott provided the initial attacks firing shots and following but struggled to beat Harrington. Instead, Layman struck once again in the third minute of the second period as he picked up the puck on the post and stuffed it past Harrington to tie up the game once again.

Once again though, Altitude had the last say in the period as repeat attacks on the Alpine net left the Alpine players scrambling to cover lanes and block shots. The constant pressure eventually paid off as John Chandler battled for the puck in the corner to come up with it and Adam Ofsterdahl skated in off the blue line to take a pinpoint pass from Chandler and punch it past McMullan for a 3-2 Altitude lead heading into the third period.

But it was opening night and the players were pumped to be on the ice and while the fitness level has yet to take hold, heart drove both teams through the final period. Alpine Lumber ultimately benefitted from their hard work when Mike Preston fired a shot from the point and Seiver followed on the rebound to score, tying the game for the third time. Weary legs and lungs did take some of the edge off though through the final minutes and Altitude had one last golden opportunity to seal the win, but McMullan came up with a glove save in the final minute to preserve the 3-3 tie.

You can catch all of the local league hockey action Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with games at 6:45 and 8:15 p.m.

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