Huskies hockey opens tonight vs. Aspen | VailDaily.com

Huskies hockey opens tonight vs. Aspen

It’s hard to imagine 16, 17 and 18 year olds as old.

But, Battle Mountain hockey’s Austin Chow definitely has a point when he said Tuesday that, “We’re a pretty old team.”

While Jade Kersey’s crew isn’t quite collecting social security yet, in high school hockey terms, the Huskies are, well, old.

And that’s a good thing – in so many ways – as the Huskies open their season tonight at 6:45 p.m., against Aspen at Dobson Arena

A total of 18 Huskies are back for 2003-04. That includes 12 seniors. That’s experience, a lot of talent and – after two close brushes with a state title the last two seasons – a sense of urgency to make this year The Year for Battle Mountain hockey.

“We’ve got the sign right there,” Huskies captain P.J. Bevan said, pointing to a sign in coach Jade Kersey’s office window. “”You have one shot, one opportunity.’ That’s our motto for the year. We’ve got 12, 13 (sic) seniors and it’s our last shot at the state title, and we’re going to do everything we need to do it.”

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“There’s an expectation. We don’t have to say it. It’s there,” Chow said. “Everyone knows what it is. We’ve got a pretty old team. Most of us have been here since the beginning (of Battle Mountain hockey), since we were freshmen and sophomores, and both those years cut deep. So, the expectation is there. Everyone wants to do their part and get the job done.”

Plain and simple – the goal is a state championship – and the Huskies have the tools to get there.

Offense is not an issue for Battle Mountain. Chow, Jason Chase, Keith Denton, Brad Myers and Summit-transfer Max Miller head up an explosive unit. Throw in freshman-surprise Derek Byron, as well as a healthy Turi Olson and sophomore Chris Chase and the Huskies have speed to burn.

Depth? Adam Weiss, Greg Flynn, Jason Funk, Matt Heelan, Andy McNeill, Jeff Savonen, Peter Shelton, Ben Godec, Casey Kleisinger and Alex Trtanj all are able to suit up at forward.

In fact, the Huskies have 32 players for 25 sweaters, which means competition will be intense in practice for playing time.

“If you want to play, you’re going to have to earn your spot,” Kersey said. “That’s all there is to it. The guys who want it the most are the guys who are going to be rewarded with playing time.”

The Huskies will also have depth on the blueline, with Kersey likely being able to suit up seven defensemen. Bevan leads the D and is joined by Ray Bernardo, Greg Garman, Keegan Keltner, Coulter Somes, Andrew Thompson and Howdy Tuthill in club play.

“We’re definitely deeper this year,” Kersey said. “There’s no question about it. Ray Bernardo has come back. Coulter Somes has moved up and Andrew Thompson and Greg Garman have improved in leaps and bounds. Defensively, I think this is the strongest I’ve seen our defense be.”

Between the pipes, it’s Karl Eklund and Eric Hansen. Hansen is likely out until mid-December with a groin injury. But, Eklund had shown his mettle in the preseason.

“I don’t think goaltending is a question mark this year,” Kersey said. “The way that Karl Eklund has developed has been great. He’s really accepted a huge role on our team and has earned the confidence of his players. I think he’s going to have an exceptional year.”

It all starts tonight with Aspen. If you believe the Rocky Mountain News, the Huskies enter ranked No. 3 in the state, while the Skiers are fourth. Defending state-champion Kent Denver is No. 1, followed by Cheyenne Mountain at No. 2. This quartet, along with No. 5 Air Academy, seem to be the main players for the state crown.

“The way I always explain it to the boys is that you only have one shot because each team is going to be slightly different,” Kersey said. “This is the one shot for this particular team. Everyone knows that they’ve come close. There’s been a lot of players who are returning who have been on those teams. This is their last chance to be a part of a team that has an opportunity to win a state championship. They’re really looking forward to the challenge.”

Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at cfreud@vaildaily.com.