Rocky Mountain Trees takes A/B hockey league title

It wasn’t just a great day for hockey, it was a great season

By Than Acuff 

All seems right in the world, at least in the world of Crested Butte town league hockey, as Rocky Mountain Trees faced Lacy Construction for the A/B league final match up on Monday night, March 11, at Big Mine Ice Arena. And after six periods of quality play, Rocky Mountain Trees emerged champions.

For starters, fans brought a keg to the game. Secondly, the glass was lined with fans holding signs, dads holding kids and nearly everyone holding drinks. And finally, while town league started with eight goalies, it was down to three by the end of the season and the top two goalies, Nicholas Mikeska and Eric DiMarco, were standing between the pipes.

As Chat GPT put it: 

“For the Rocky Mountain Trees, victory seemed within reach as they boasted a formidable lineup of seasoned players. Led by captain Jack ‘Iceberg’ Thompson, whose swift skating and precise puck-handling skills were a force to be reckoned with, the Trees were determined to claim the championship title once again. 

On the opposing side stood Lacy Construction, a team known for their resilience and unwavering teamwork. Under the leadership of captain Sarah ‘Slapshot’ Lacy, they had overcome numerous challenges throughout the season to earn their spot.”

I didn’t see either Jack “Iceberg” Thompson or Sarah “Slapshot” Lacy on their respective benches and I don’t recall “the Trees” winning the title last year.

“Open the pod bay doors please Hal.”

Oh well, guess I gotta write this one myself.

Of note, 10 players between the two teams had been coached by current WEHA executive director Bill Frame in the town program when they were mini mites so many years ago. Not only that, but Frame was the scorekeeper for the big game, full commit.

But we’re not here to wax nostalgic about local hockey, we’re here to write about not one, but two town league final games.

Lacy Construction and Rocky Mountain Trees were first and second respectively in the regular season standings with Lacy Construction owning their matchups throughout the year. Not only that, but Lacy Construction continued their winning ways in the post season to reach the finals, while Rocky Mountain Trees had to battle their way out of the loser’s bracket to make it to the big show and needed two in a row to win the title.

There was a glitch in the showdown working in Rocky Mountain Trees’ favor. Lacy Construction was missing the top scorer in the league, Sam Kay, to a honeymoon in Belize which, I Belize, evened things out between the two teams.

Game one, while worthy of an article in and of itself, was a tale of two teams. On one side you had Lacy Construction going 9-0 all game long while Rocky Mountain Trees remained calm and composed despite their backs against the wall.

Rocky Mountain Trees struck early when Ryan Fitzsimmons skated coast-to-coast to score in the first period. Lacy Construction responded late in the second period with a short-handed goal when Dakota Wiggins, the league’s second leading scorer, followed on a shot by Cole Hanson to bury the rebound.

The deciding goal came during a powerplay late in the third period as Fitzsimmons fired from the point through traffic with as many as five players standing in front of Mikeska. Mikeska somehow pulled off the initial save, but Dylan Curtiss was in the slot to lift it past Mikeska for the eventual game-winning goal forcing a second and final game. 

While a fresh sheet of ice was laid down, the players returned to their locker rooms to rest and refuel as fans did the same, and when the whistle sounded for the second game of the night, the arena was full once again and the players prepared and what ensued was pure town league hockey magic.

Given the gravity of the situation, Lacy Construction was done messing around. Rocky Mountain Trees did have a couple of early chances and the work of Erin Kelly on defense shut off Lacy Construction attack up the boards, but Lacy Construction struck first. Wiggins threatened all game during the first game and kept up his effort in the second game skating from behind the net to then pick the upper corner for a 1-0 Lacy Construction lead three minutes into the first period.

Rocky Mountain Trees didn’t panic though and maintained their passing ways to open shots with Kaitlyn Seifert battling for rebounds in the slot. But Mikeska only got stronger the more shots he saw, and Lacy Construction held on to their 1-0 lead.

Rocky Mountain Trees threatened early again in the second period, but Lacy Construction was laying everything on the line for the game including Chris Leavitt diving to block a shot and Quinn Langsfeld repeatedly stripping the puck off Rocky Mountain Trees’ skaters and turning it up ice and back on attack.

Long shifts led to tired legs and loose defense as the second period progressed, but Mikeska went from being on point, to standing on his head and eventually to a state of unconsciousness in net to hold off a late period surge. But it wasn’t all Mikeska as Jeff Snyder, Nathan Lacy and Ashton Mabry provided the needed puck pressure on defense while Collin Vossen and Sophie Morpurgo battled in the neutral zone.

Still, while Lacy Construction was primed and gaining momentum, they couldn’t find much room on attack as Oliver Houseman was unbeatable on defense cutting off angles, clogging passing lanes and winning loose pucks.

Lacy Construction opened the third period on a powerplay and came close to taking a 2-0 lead when Mabry tipped a shot by Lacy, but DiMarco had also reached “the zone” in net to make a blind save.

The game was then turned on its head four minutes into the third period when Rocky Mountain Trees won a faceoff and turned on the attack. Zach Bever carried the puck and found Fitzsimmons and one quick, slick move by Fitzsimmons opened a shot and he scored to tie the game 1-1.

Rocky Mountain Trees got a chance to then take the lead on a powerplay midway through the third, but Lacy Construction clamped down on the penalty kill creating some momentum for the final five minutes of the game.

That is until Jason Keener spoke up. All game Keener had been skating roughshod up and down the ice like a man possessed for Rocky Mountain Trees and his efforts eventually bore fruit with three minutes left. Keener worked to win the puck at the blue line and skated to net to shoot. Once again, Mikeska made the first save but Carey Willette was on the doorstep to score on the rebound for a 2-1 Rocky Mountain Trees lead.

Rocky Mountain Trees almost gave the game back to Lacy Construction with a penalty with two minutes left. Lacy Construction eventually pulled Mikeska for a two-man advantage in the final 45 seconds but produced little in the way of shots and Rocky Mountain Trees finished off the 2-1 win to take the 2024 title.

“Last night of hockey, we now got three months until softball.”

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