All in the family on the ice for Huskies |

All in the family on the ice for Huskies

Ian Cropp
Preston Utley/Vail DailyBattle Mountain's Jonny Stevens, left, and McKenzie Stevens, are twins and defensive partners.

VAIL – On any close-knit team, teammates are less like teammates and more like family. For the Battle Mountain hockey, some teammates are family.McKenzie and Jonny Stevens are teammates, twins, and also defensive partners.”For me, he’s my favorite person to play with. I know how he plays, and he knows how I play,” McKenzie said.Other Huskies are just as happy the Stevens twins are back at the blueline.”They must have some sort of ESP because they play amazing together and seem to know where each other are,” said Barrett Chow, who played alongside his older brother, Austin, last year.While the Stevens’s are twins, they aren’t identical either in looks, or playing style.”He’s more offensive minded, and I’m more defensive. We know how to play together,” McKenzie said.

So when Jonny rushes the puck up the wing, he knows that he can count on someone being at the blueline to defend a rush coming the other way.”We’re pretty good like that. If I’m up there, she’s typically back,” Jonny said.Even when the game is over, there is still on-ice like communication.”A lot of times after the games, we’ll be driving back and talk about the game,” Jonny said.Coach Gary Defina thinks the twins work well together, but admits there is one drawback.”The only one thing that’s bad is, McKenzie being a girl, some guys will try and take runs at her, and Jonny comes back and goes headhunting and it sometimes takes him off his game,” Defina said. Still, Defina enjoys having a complementary defensive pair.

“McKenzie is one of our smartest defensman. She effectively plays the body and is very good positionally. She kills penalties very well and Jonny is good on the power play,” Defina said.Automatic mentorChow and Chris Chase know the benefit of having older brothers on the same team.”I had never played with him before,” Chow said of playing with Austin last year. “He taught me a lot of stuff. Sometimes I’d get frustrated, but I know he was just trying to teach me.”Chase has had a full lineup (five to be exact) of brothers proceed him with the Huskies and/or in Vail Junior Hockey, but gained the most advantage from playing with his brother Jason for two years on the Battle Mountain team.”If you have a sibling that plays a sport, it’s better than being out there alone, especially being a freshman,” Chris Chase said. “He already had some friends established.”

Chase says his learning experience wasn’t just limited to the ice.”I always look up to Jason,” Chase said. “He was a scholar and an athlete, which was awesome.”And if you look at Chris taking a shot, you may see some traces of Jason.”When he was a sophomore and I was in eighth grade, we got a hockey net and put it in our driveway and took shots all the time,” Chris Chase said.Chow says that having an older brother often draws automatic comparisons, but enjoys playing with his own style.”It’s hard for other people to see your own style,” Chow said. “You know how you play.”Defina recognizes that it’s not an easy task being a younger sibling on the ice.

“It’s hard for both of them because both of their brothers were really good players, and it’s difficult to fill your brothers’ shoes,” Defina said. “And Chris has had a whole bunch of shoes to fill.”As a sophomore, Chow seems to be doing quite well, and doesn’t mind being the younger of the Chows.”I love being the younger brother,” Chow said.And Chase, who has stepped up as a senior, wishes there was another Chase on the team next year.”I wish I had a younger brother all the time. That would be sweet,” Chase said. “But (being the youngest) has its advantages. I get it easy compared to how my brothers did.”Back again

Last weekend, the Stevens’ played apart in order to match better defensive pairings with opponents’ forwards.”Hopefully we’ll go back this weekend,” McKenzie said.Even if they don’t, Jonny is confident things will work out.”We all worked pretty well together,” he said of last weekend’s pairings.The evidence is there, as the Huskies are playing in the Frozen Four for the fifth straight year Friday against Peak to Peak at Colorado Springs’ World Arena.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or, Colorado

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