State playoffs on tap
By John KnaufIt’s the time of year you look forward to the most if you’re a high school athlete. For the local hockey, wrestling, and ski teams, it’s playoff time. It’s time to test yourself against the rest of the state and prove yourself against the best.Probably the best chance for a state championship rests with the Battle Mountain hockey team. At presstime the CHSAA seeding selection was still underway.While stranger things have happened, it’s probably safe to say the Huskies will be seeded first or second with Cheyenne Mountain earning the other top seed.While sophomore Austin Chow leads the Huskies in scoring, Battle Mountain has been extremely balanced throughout the season and has received valuable offensive contributions from all its lines. Karl Eklund and Eric Hansen have shared the goaltending duties and will try to continue their stingy ways in the state playoffs over the weekend of Feb. 21.As the Huskies progressed through the season, two things have stood out for the Husky coaching staff.”Our puck movement through the neutral zone has been a big asset and allows us to get the puck to the outside guys to utilize their speed,” said head coach Jade Kersey. “We’ve also gotten a lot better at capitalizing on second chance opportunities.”In other sports where participants slide around on frozen surfaces, Vail will serve as host to the state ski championships over the weekend of Feb. 21.Beginning on Friday, all alpine events will be taking place on the Centennial course at Beaver Creek. Races are set for Friday and Saturday with Vail Mountain School and Battle Mountain poised for strong showing by both the girls and boys teams.Eagle Valley is serving as the host school for this weekend’s championships, Feb. 21-22. The Devils’ strength comes in the nordic events which will take place on Friday on the course at the top of Cordillera and conclude Saturday with the freestyle nordic race at the Vail Golf Course.Berry Creek Middle School will be the place to be for ski fans on Saturday night, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. That’s where all awards will be handed out.The final wrestling state championships over the weekend of Feb. 21 take place in Denver at the Pepsi Center. That’s where 12 Eagle Valley wrestlers are headed after placing second as a team at the regional finals at Hotchkiss. Tommy Barela, Mason Ewing, and Tim Reitz continued to pace the Devils by winning championships in their respective weight classes. Strong second-place showings by John Saldana, Charles Faulhaber, and Chris Harvey enhaced the statement made by the Eagle Valley wrestlers.”These guys worked hard all year,” said head coach Jeff Lueders. “I thought it was going to happen and I’m just happy things came through for the kids.”As the Devils travel to Denver, they’ll do it with that commonly seen Western Slope chip on their shoulder.”We have three or four kids with a chance to get to the finals,” Lueders said. “They don’t get credit from people in Denver because they don’t think we know how to wrestle.”Of course, the Devils know there’s only one way to get the respect they want.Meanwhile, the Battle Mountain wrestlers were in good shape after their Friday performance in the district tournament. That changed quickly on Saturday, Feb. 15 when none of the Husky wrestlers were able to advance to the state tournament.And in basketball things continue to be rocky for local boys and girls basketball teams. Regular season play concludes the weekend of Feb. 21. We’ll have more on basketball district playoffs next week.