At last, Huskies beat Kent Denver
VAIL ” Battle Mountain hockey’s game with Kent Denver Saturday night was so nice, the Huskies celebrated it twice.
The Huskies partied over their 2-1 win over the Sun Devils prematurely with 0.9 seconds left and then when the zeros finally flashed. And given the tenacity of this rivalry, both eruptions on Dobson ice were well-deserved.
The last three times the two teams met prior to Saturday, Kent Denver had handed Battle Mountain excruciating losses, including eliminating the Huskies the last two seasons in the state semifinals. So the win was an exorcism of sorts for Battle Mountain.
“Revenge is sweet,” said senior Brad Myers, who’s played in all seven meetings with Kent Denver. “I’m so happy right now. All the pain that we’ve gone through the past four years, it’s so much better being on all those teams now. It’s awesome. I can’t express how happy I am right now.”
“It’s pretty huge. It was kind of a payback,” said Huskies goalie Karl Eklund, who was on the ice in last year’s semifinal loss. “It was for all the other guys who graduated who didn’t get to beat them. It was a good feeling to win, especially when you play a good game like that. It’s always rewarding when you win like that.”
Coach Andy Hire was equally ecstatic.
“It’s huge. We’re still early in the season, only five games in,” he said. “We had a good head of speed going, but with a win here we go harder. With a loss, it could have set back our four wins. For this whole community, it’s a win.”
‘Karl played lights out’
In a game that lived up to the hype, no one shone brighter than Eklund, with Myers a very close second. In the team’s three-plus years, the Huskies Achilles’ heel has been goaltending.
Not on Saturday night.
Eklund was solid in the first and got stronger as the Huskies started a parade to the penalty box. The Huskies killed two-man advantages for Kent of 1:31 and 1:20 in the second and third periods.
But Eklund’s pinnacle moment came with 13:32 left in the game with the Huskies leading, 1-0. Battle Mountain’s Austin Chow cupped the puck in the crease to stop a likely goal; however, the referees rightly awarded the Sun Devils a penalty shot.
Kent’s John-Paul Beaupre got the honors. Beaupre started to his right, and Eklund came out to cut off the angle. There might have been room for Beaupre to go to Eklund’s right, but the Huskies goalie closed the door, sending his team and the crowd into a frenzy.
“Karl played lights out. Karl’s the man tonight,” Myers said. “I was scared, but that’s what teammates are for. They’re there for you. Karl definitely did the job today.”
Eklund admitted he was nervous, but he stood tall.
“But it’s just one of those things where you’ve got to not listen to the fans and focus for what’s going to happen,” Eklund said. “You can’t be thinking about anything else.
“You have to close the gap on the attacker, play the body. If he decides to cut across, on his backhand, then you’ve got to poke-check. I was planning on doing it, but he didn’t.”
Eklund gave the Huskies a reprieve, which would loom large by the time the buzzer sounded, but Beaupre got his revenge with 9:18 left, scoring on a spin move to tie the game.
Tied at one, the Huskies and their fans were getting that uneasy feeling they’ve known so often against Kent. Battle Mountain hadn’t had much continuity in its line with penalties, and Alex Biegler’s 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind wasn’t helping matters.
“It was a little nervous,” Hire said. “We didn’t have any organized lines. We had a lot of chaos, a lot of mix-and-matches. Everyone who went out there fought their hardest. We killed penalties pretty well. We’ve done it well the entire season. Once we got through that, we had a good chance of finishing the game.”
And finish they did. Biegler finally got out of the box and made up for his penalty. The Huskies were furiously rushing the Kent net in the final minutes. With 2:58 left, Biegler found Myers in his office, right in front of the net, and the Huskies had the lead for good at 2-1.
“I came off the bench. It was a greasy goal,” Myers said. “It was right in the slot. I chipped it up. It was kind of a signature thing, I guess.”
Signature or not, it was Myers’ second of the game. He gave Battle Mountain the lead in the second period. This one was a thing of beauty as Casey Kleisinger executed a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Myers. Myers swooped in on the puck as it arrived and buried it on the far side of Kent goalie Maris Tate.
“Brad doesn’t like to be called a grinder. He likes to be called a greaser,” Hire said. “Brad’s a greaser in his mind. He went hard to the net both times, and it paid off with two good goals. You can always count on Brad to catch the dirty ones and even the classy ones, too.”
Hire’s three stars ” 1) Eklund, 2) Myers and 3) Chow. The first two were obvious selections. The third star to Chow was a nice nod as No. 11 took a pounding from the Sun Devils and kept on going, playing most of the end of the third period. Doubtless, Battle Mountain soccer’s Dane Jacobs would agree with that assessment because he claims to be Chow’s biggest fan. … Battle Mountain moved to 5-0 going into the holiday break. Kent is 2-3. Battle Mountain hosts Aspen Jan. 5 at 6:45 p.m. … There was a big crowd on hand, which included a gaggle of Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain alums. Don’t think the team didn’t appreciate it. “I’d like to thank the fans for coming,” Hire said. “It means a lot to these kids. The kids play harder with a lot of people in the stands.” … Fearless forecast: Battle Mountain and Kent will doubtless meet again in the semifinals in February at the World Arena.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.