Black, gold, and ice-cold |

Black, gold, and ice-cold

Tom Boyd

The closing seconds of last year’s Battle Mountain hockey season are still burned clearly into P.J. Bevan’s memory. It was overtime at the state championships, and the entire inaugural Husky season was on the line. Radio broadcasts and newspaper articles closely followed the team as they made their playoff run, and it seemed that all of Eagle County was poised to celebrate a championship victory.But it was not to be. The puck ended up in the back of the wrong net, and the Huskies came home one goal short of a championship in their first year as a team.While some teams may try to move on and forget a painful loss from a bygone season, the Huskies have used last year’s defeat as a rallying point and they are determined to gain a second shot at the title. The Rocky Mountain News seems to think they can do it, and the metro paper ranked the Huskies No. 2 in the state at the beginning of the season.The pressure is definitely on, but the team appears more than able to handle it. Gathered in the locker room after a Dec. 18 practice, Bevan explains the team’s new attitude.”Losing that game has been our driving force this year,” says the team captain, getting nods from his other teammates. And all of them agree: “We want to be back in that championship game.”Getting there will be a different process than a year ago, mostly because of a new coaching staff. Despite last year’s performance, some parents felt that a coaching change was necessary. Early in this season there was some speculation from outside sources that the team might suffer under changed leadership, but with a 4-1 record (heading into a Dec. 20 away game against Colorado Academy), everything seems to be going smoothly as the team adjusts to new head coach Jade Jersey and assistant coach Matt Hovey.Kersey, who played at the collegiate and semi-pro level, is asking his players to make their minds their most potent weapon. Lacking the size that some Denver teams accrue through try-outs and sheer numbers, Vail’s un-cut 20-man roster is a raw look at Vail’s young hockey talent.Goaltenders Karl Eklund and Eric Hansen are creating a strong last line of defense, and Austin Chow has netted some key goals for the team. Chow, who almost looks more comfortable on skates than he does on foot, seems to have the kind of locker-room lightheartedness that makes the practice fun. But like his teammates, Chow knows when to focus.A motto of excellenceAs the season rumbles on the team will be counting on speed, skill, and most of all: smarts.”Our motto is: ‘Excellence in hockey, education and citizenship,'” Kersey says, “and that pretty much sums up what we’re doing here.”Kersey has implemented a thorough plan to help his players meet high expectations. On their way to the playoffs the players will meet twice a week after practice for hour-and-a-half study halls, and every player is required to fill out Kersey’s grade book.”We don’t have any excuses for getting bad grades,” says Nathan Simon, noting that he and his teammates will need strong minds to digest Kersey’s complicated playbook.”He teaches us in a way that’s very strategic,” says Simon. “That’s probably the biggest difference between last year and this year.”Mosquito rootsAfter a few warm-up drills on Dec. 18, Kersey calls his players in for a quick chalk talk. Down on one knee, the team wastes no time focusing on Kersey’s dry-erase board, and it’s no wonder: the map of a break-out drill has more X’s and O’s than a spilled bowl of Alphabit’s cereal. Still, no one wants to be the player that gets the drill wrong. Bevan leads by example, watching intently and asking questions as the coach draws up his schematics.Each of the team’s four lines nailed the drill (which had several variations) within five minutes of its introduction. Same goes for a high-pressure penalty kill that should exploit the weaknesses of the typical high school power play. These two drills are perfect examples of Kersey’s nose for good strategy. And like everything else he does, Kersey’s new break-outs and penalty kills require quick thinking above all.The efficiency of the team in such drills is a bit stunning and it is with this that the team seems to justify its second-place ranking.”These guys are a pretty tight group,” Kersey says by way of explanation. “They’ve been playing hockey together for a long time, and most of them pretty much know what’s going on.”Bevan, Simon, Jason Chase, Eric Hanson, Greg Garman, and Keith Denton are among those who have been playing together ever since they the “mosquito” level at three years old and younger. Team unity and a hockey culture seem to make up for a lack of numbers: Battle Mountain has no junior varsity, no try-outs, and no real options if a rash of injuries should strike the team. But what they lack in size they more than make up for with hockey smarts and ol’ fashioned Vail athleticism.”We know each other, and we have almost have a sixth sense about where everyone is out on the ice,” says Bevan. “We hold each other accountable in the weight room, at school and out on the ponds.”Chase points out that Vail’s hockey tradition has helped him get a good sense for the game.”A lot of what we learned comes from our older brothers,” he says. “We skate with them out on the ponds, or in the driveway we just learned to love the game.”Bevan’s older brother, Terry, played for more than a decade alongside assistant coach Hovey. Hovey says times have changed since he was a Vail Junior Hockey Club player. The ice bubble at the golf course has done an incredible service to hockey in the valley, he says, because players now have more ice time something he says Vail always lacked in the past.”But the biggest thing is that these guys are in it, competing against other high schools, and you have high school spirit,” he says. “We’re representing Battle Mountain, and I think it’s just fun to go out there and beat other high schools.”The team does have a few players from Vail Mountain, Vail Christian and Eagle Valley, but uniting under the black-and-gold seems to have recharged the batteries of youth hockey in the valley, and no player is alienated because of his day school.With Kersey and Hovey at the reins of a tight-knit team hungry for a title, the second year of Battle Mountain hockey may prove as successful as the first or maybe more so.Team RosterCoach: Jade KerseyAssistant Coach: Matt HoveyNo.NameNo.Name1Hansen, Eric (G)22Agneberg, Paul4Chase, Jason26Chase, Chris7Bevan, PJ27 Simon, Nathan8Heelan, Matt36Eklund, Karl (G)9Reid, Steve38Thompson, Andrew10Denton, Keith39Garman, Greg11Chow, Austin44Biegler, Alex14Tuthill, Howdy61Myers, Brad16Savonen, Jeff66 Olson, Turi (Inj.)18Weiss, Adam88Keltner, KeeganSchedule:DateTimeHome TeamVisiting TeamDec. 202 p.m.Colorado AcademyBattle MountainJan. 33:30 p.m.MachebeufBattle MountainJan 107:30 p.m.Battle MountainLibertyJan. 113:15 p.m.Battle MountainPuebloJan 177:30 p.m.Battle MountainPalmerJan. 186:30 p.m.Battle MountainMachebeufJan. 247 p.m.PalmerBattle MountainJan. 317:30 p.m.PuebloBattle MountainFeb. 16:30 p.m.Battle MountainMitchellFeb. 8NoonMitchellBattle Mountain

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