EDWARDS — With Battle Mountain boys lacrosse hanging on to a 6-5 lead against Aspen with three minutes left, Gordon Smith, the Huskies’ longtime stats keeper, quietly said, “Just hold on to the ball.”
On the other side of the field, the Huskies’ Canon Kirchner could not hear Smith. Instead, he rocketed a shot into the Skiers’ net.
That goal iced a 7-5 win for No. 8-ranked Battle Mountain over No. 3 Aspen on Wednesday in Edwards.
“It was awesome,” Kirchner said. “It was getting pretty intense there. Aspen put up a fight and it was good to get a goal and come up with the win.”
As much as Battle Mountain (9-2 overall and 5-1 in the Mountain Conference) has been playing outside of the Western Slope region to earn credibility when it comes to playoff seeding, beating conference rival Aspen may have done the trick.
“It’s awesome,” Huskies goalie Zach Trombetta said. “Last year, it was (a) close (loss to Aspen). I think the guys in front of me did a great job, the midfielders and defenders were killer. It was a really good win.”
Yes, the Battle Mountain defense was good, but the school might consider making “Zach Trombetta for President” shirts. The senior keeper was that good on Wednesday. Though Skiers junior Tyler Tick logged a hat trick during the first half, Trombetta was keeping the Huskies in the game with save after save.
Aspen (10-2, 6-1) had been averaging 14.8 goals per game coming into Wednesday’s game.
While noting that his team was missing some players, Aspen coach Michael Goerne gave credit to Battle Mountain.
“That’s the thing with this game. You never know who you’re going to have on a given day. You’ve just gotta prepare,” he said. “Battle Mountain played a great game. They ran hard. You’ve got to respect the program they have over here. They definitely earned the W today.”
Trombetta and the Huskies’ defense held Aspen off the scoreboard from late in the second period until there was 6:04 left in the game.
“Zach has a huge voice on defense,” Huskies defender Jon Rulon said. “He tells us who’s hot, where the second slide is. He’s the best goalie I’ve had. I’ve gone to recruiting camps and played with good goalies, but he’s the best.”
Battle Mountain’s defense also made an adjustment, which Rulon described as “sucking into the hole.”
“Essentially, it’s off-ball side defensive help,” Huskies coach Jerry Nichols said. “We’ve been working super-hard on it. It started to come together against Evergreen (on Monday). We knew we’d be seeing a higher level of talent in Aspen.”
Making a run
While Tick had all the scoring for Aspen, Clayton Davis had two, and Wyatt Dilling and Crane McGuckin scored for Battle Mountain and a 4-3 halftime lead. Dilling to Jack Harty and Mike Lange to Dilling in the third quarter upped that lead to 6-3. Aspen erupted for two scores in a 40-second span in the fourth quarter (Ryan Fitzgerald and Tick’s fourth) to make Battle Mountain’s sideline very anxious before Kirchner struck.
Both Aspen and Battle Mountain, along with Steamboat Springs, seem to be locks for the postseason, so there is hopefully a lot of lacrosse to be played into May. The Skiers, who finally dethroned Steamboat as the champion of the Mountain Conference last year, made the Elite Eight last season. Aspen hosts Windsor on Monday at 2 p.m. The Skiers are also at Steamboat on May 3, and the Huskies will be rooting for Aspen to force a three-way tie atop the standings.
Meanwhile, Battle Mountain makes it southern swing, playing at Telluride on Friday and at Durango on Saturday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.