EDWARDS - Battle Mountain boys lacrosse has lost only twice in nearly four years on its "new" home pitch, and both of them have been at the collective hands of Steamboat Springs.
The Sailors handed the Huskies loss No. 2 Wednesday afternoon in convincing fashion, 12-3. And with the win, Steamboat (6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain Conference) jumped back into the league's title chase after an early-season loss to Aspen. The Sailors pulled into a tie with the Huskies at 4-1 and both teams trail the first-place Skiers (2-0) by one game in the loss column.
Steamboat did so by dominating possession and then serving up a huge helping of junior Ben Wharton. The Sailors junior had six goals, and they came at key moments in the game.
Battle Mountain (6-2, 4-1) actually cracked the seal on Wednesday's game with a Cooper Perkins goal with 10:55 left in the first. From there, the Sailors simply took control of the faceoffs and ground balls and seemed like they were playing with a one-man advantage, even through there were no whistles in the opening 12 minutes.
"That's a big part of our game, possession," Steamboat coach Bob Hiester said. "We've got good speed, so we take advantage of it. On the other hand, there are times we know we can't push it, so we need to settle on it."
Steamboat's Christian Ramirez evened it during the first period, and his team took control in the second. The Huskies started that stanza down a man due to a three-minute stick penalty (too short), and the Sailors capitalized. Mitch McCannon to Thomas Tarcha with 9:49 left in the half gave Steamboat the lead for good at 2-1. McCannon ripped the twine himself 30 seconds later. Just as the Huskies' penalty expired, Wharton started his rampage on a helper by Ramirez.
Battle Mountain's John Rulon pulled the Huskies within 4-2, but a beautiful transition score from Steamboat's Tyler Scott to Wharton restored order. Peyton Trask rounded out the Sailors' scoring in the first half.
And even though Steamboat was up 5-2, not 4-2 at the half as was the case in the loss to Aspen, Hiester served up a reminder.
"He said, 'You remember this feeling. You were up, 4-2, against Aspen, too. We can't let this go like we did against Aspen,'" Wharton said. "Everyone heard that."
The Sailors looked like they were shot out of a canon in the third quarter. They scored four times in the first 94 seconds of the half - Wharton three more times and Trask once - to squelch any chances of Huskies' comeback.
"We have to recognize the fact that we did not play disciplined lacrosse today," Huskies coach Jerry Nichols said. "We have to recognize that. We have to look it in the face and admit it, and fix it. That is the only thing we can do. We said that one game is not going to define our season."
Of particular concern to Nichols were the 10 penalties the Huskies took in the final three periods, as well as what he saw as a lack of hustle for ground balls.
Battle Mountain will try to bounce back Friday when it hosts Conifer in Edwards at 5:30 p.m. (That is a reschedule of a snowout last month.) Meanwhile, Steamboat heads down to the Front Range Friday to face Golden at Trailblazer Stadium at 7:30 p.m., and then is at Cheyenne Mountain Saturday.
"Those are going to be two good tests for us," Wharton said.
While both teams doubtless are taking a one-game-at-a-time approach to the season, the Sailors will likely be in Huskies' corner when Battle Mountain heads to Pitkin County on April 30 to face those Skiers. A Huskies' win could deadlock all three teams at the top of the Mountain Conference.
"We could use all the help we can get there," Heister said with a smile. "They're very capable of doing that."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sailors 1 5 4 2 - 12
Huskies 1 1 0 1 - 3
Sailors scoring: Ben Wharton (6), Christian Ramirez (2), Thomas Tarcha, Mitch McCannon, Peyton Trask (2).
Huskies scoring: Cooper Perkins, John Rulon, Karl Norris.