Vail’s Yeti hockey team wins league championship
VAIL — Early in November, the Yeti men’s hockey team thought they might have a pretty good team this year.
How good was anyone’s guess, but there were many returning players and some exciting new additions. At about the halfway point of the season, the Yeti found the right chemistry and put it all together winning 10 of their last 12 games.
Last weekend was the culmination as the Yeti won the 2017 Mountain Western Hockey League Cup by defeating the Arizona Outlaws 5-3 in the second game of their best-of-3 series and returned to Vail as champions. Vail’s Bill Foster scored two goals including the game-winner, giving him six points in the series and earning the MWHL Playoff MVP Award.
The Yeti struck first when Brent Sands converted a pass from Kyle Dove to beat Outlaws goalie Alex Palumbo followed by Matt Merritt from Will Compton doubling the lead. Despite numerous chances during the opening set, Arizona couldn’t find net behind Vail goalie Spencer Gold.
In the second period, Foster scored his first goal of the game on the power play with help from Dalton Speelman. He struck again from Justin Elmore to make it a 4-0 game. The Yeti looked to be coasting until the Outlaws struck back with two quick goals cutting Vail’s lead to 4-2.
The teams went toe-to-toe with great scoring chances in the third period until Speelman converted a Foster pass to give the Yeti some insurance. It was needed because the Outlaws scored again midway through the period, but Vail shut the door the rest of the way to earn their second MWHL Cup Championship in four years.
Vail’s assistant captain Jeff Tarala accepted the MWHL Cup banner. Then Foster was presented the MWHL Cup by Commissioner Thomas Brown. The Yeti captain raised the MWHL Cup before handing it to his teammates for a wild on-ice celebration.
The win capped a championship season finishing 18-8-4 overall including a two-games-to-one series win in the semifinals against Breckenridge and an 8-5 win against Arizona in Game 1 of the finals. In Game 1, Justin Elmore and Dalton Speelman each recorded hat tricks, Foster added a goal and two assists while Merritt sealed the win with an insurance goal.
Multiple Yeti received Mountain West Hockey League awards for the 2016-2017 season. Andy Canzanello was chosen best defenseman, Justin Elmore was awarded top goal scorer, and defenseman Jeff Tarala, forward Dalton Speelman and goaltender Spencer Gold were all-star selections.