“Better to have setbacks early in the season”
[ by Than Acuff ]
The holiday break came right as the Crested Butte Titans hockey team was gaining momentum. After falling short in games against a couple of 4A state powerhouses to open the season, they took down Summit High School 5-2 and then knocked off Front Range private school Colorado Academy 2-1 who are sitting at the top of their league standings.
Then the holiday break hit but the Titans kept the energy going. The state athletics rules force teams to take a break from required practices during the holiday season so the Titans coaching staff secured some ice time for the players and offered optional practices for the squad.
“They went really well,” says coach Billy Watson. “Every day the kids were bringing it and we almost had full attendance. I thought they were really beneficial to us.”
Then illness hit the team once school was back in session. Nevertheless, the Titans workouts continued to be full of energy and the team looked on point heading into their games against Centaurus on Friday, January 7 and Colorado Academy on Saturday, January 8.
“We were missing a couple of key players but the team was feeling good going into the weekend,” says Watson.
There were some hiccups on the road trip Friday though leaving the Titans to scramble to get to the rink on time and the loss of a couple of key players as well as the rush to the rink may have thrown the team out of whack.
“That put a bump in our schedule hauling to the rink to get to the game on time,” says Watson. “The kids didn’t get the best meal before the game.”
Centaurus came out on attack against the Titans to build a 2-0 lead after one period of play. They added a third goal eight minutes into the second period as Crested Butte struggled to get any rhythm on the ice.
“The kids came out slow and we were just trying to find lines that worked,” says Watson. “Centaurus just kind of took it to us and that was that.”
The Titans got on the scoreboard in the 10th minute of the second period when Evan Sewards scored off an assist from Duke Sloan but a penalty shortly after the goal cooled the Titans off and Centaurus scored a fourth goal to seal the 4-1 win. Titans’ goalie Jack Perkins finished the night with 29 saves.
“We thought we were back in it after that goal but we got a penalty and had to kill that off,” says Watson. “It seemed like it was always something in that game.”
Struggles continued as the Titans faced Colorado Academy the next day. Colorado Academy came out looking to avenge the loss to the Titans earlier in the season bringing their energy from the opening puck drop and outshooting the Titans 10-4 in the first period. Thanks to the work of Titans goaltender TJ Wonnacott though, the Titans held on and the teams were tied 0-0 after the first period of play.
“They came out right away on us and smacked us in the jaw,” says Watson.
Colorado Academy stepped it up another notch in the second period to outshoot the Titans 17-3 and net three goals for a 3-0 lead after two periods of play.
Crested Butte did have the final say on the scoreboard as Grady Dietrich scored in the 11th minute of the third off an assist from Rocky Marchitelli but it was too little too late as the Titans fell 3-1. Wonnacott finished the game stopping 32 of 35 shots.
“They straight up outplayed us,” says Watson. “We lost 35 face offs and kept turning the puck over. You can’t win a game when you lose 35 face offs. We also went 0-6 on power plays. We only lost by two and it definitely could have been a lot worse.”
While the losses were tough, Watson puts it into perspective.
“It’s better to have these setbacks earlier in the season,” says Watson.
The next Titans’ hockey game isn’t until Friday, January 21 giving the team some time to get their mojo back.
“I’m just hoping kids can stay safe, stay healthy and it gives us a chance to reboot,” says Watson.