Battle Mountain hockey, the day after
EAGLE-VAIL – A few engines were idling early Saturday morning at around 1:30 in the Battle Mountain parking lot when the sirens of two Eagle County Sheriff cars disturbed the otherwise quiet night. Aaron Burwell pulled the horn of the Huskies’ hockey bus one last time.The boys were home after a long – and successful – season.As the players and coaches scampered to their cars, realizing how much colder it is up in Eagle-Vail than down in the Colorado Springs, it was clear that spirits were slightly higher than they were about five hours earlier on the ice at the World Arena when the Huskies lost the state title to Air Academy, 2-0.Even in the face of Barrett Chow.Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment five hours earlier had been the sight of Chow in the tunnel underneath the stands. He took the penalty that led to Cody Paul’s eventual game-winning goal for Air Academy and he was blaming himself solely for the loss.
Chow felt that he had cost his brother, Austin, a state title. His brother was never going to speak to him again. There was no way he could ever look at his teammates again.Hopefully, Barrett, you’re starting to understand that none of this is true. (Your family likely loves you even more than ever.) The Kadets added an empty-netter at the end, but for all intents and purposes, this was a 1-0 game. In a 1-0 game, there are about 15,000 different little things which could have changed the outcome.It wasn’t you, Barrett. This was simply a case of two evenly matched teams. Two weeks ago Saturday, the Huskies beat Air Academy, 4-3. Two weeks later, the Kadets were one goal better.Bottom line, Air Academy was just a notch better than Battle Mountain on a chosen day.Some will say this team was a failure. Some will say these Huskies underachieved. Or, as one Front Range media member said, “It’s the mountain jinx.”
None of the above. If anything, this team overachieved. If you had said that this year the Huskies would enter the title game – or merely even make the finals – with a 22-0 record with wins over Kent, Cheyenne, Aspen (twice), Air Academy and surprise team, Machebeuf (twice), you’d have been thought of as certifiable.Last year’s team was the one that should have gotten it done. When you have three lines, experience on defense and 11 seniors, there is no excuse, though many were made. This year’s team started with a line-and-a-half, an inexperienced defense and tested, but unproven goalie with a new coach, whom I originally dubbed, “Victim No. 3.”Here’s why this, while not the most talented Battle Mountain squad, was the best team in every sense of the word.– Let’s start with “Victim No. 3,” coach Andy Hire. When you’re following two coaches who have compiled a 66-5-2 record and have been run out of town, you’re in deep trouble from the beginning. Hire has shown the political acumen, sadly needed in Battle Mountain hockey, to avoid the wrath of all but a few dissenters.– Oh, yes, he can coach. Hire knew what he had and went with it. In his most gutsy move, Hire broke up last year’s ABA line (Austin Chow, Brad Myers and Alex Biegler). In doing so, he let the reins loose for Chow and Myers to go off in record-setting fashion.
— By breaking up the ABA line, he produced two terrifying lines that were the best in the state. He knew he only had two lines and he got them in the condition where they could play pretty much the entire game.– Trivia time: Chow and Myers were 1-2 in the state in scoring. Who’s third? (Answer later).– Hire’s coaching touch also paid dividends in the Frozen Four. Hire nursed Karl Eklund along this year and the keeper returned the favor last weekend. Karl, you are a big-time goalie. You kept the team in the game in the first period against Cheyenne and you were Battle Mountain’s No. 1 star against Air Academy.– And, yes, the defense. I’ve been hard on you guys all year, but replacing P.J. Bevan was a big chore. After all, Bevan was essentially two d-men (excuse me, d-persons, MacKenzie) in one. A key loss in the title game was the injury to Andreas Apostal. He was missed greatly. You could not say the same thing about him or any other defender early in the season. We’ll miss you, Matt Garth. But Apostal, Coulter Somes, Matt Heelan Jonathan and MacKenzie Stevens are an awfully nice set of blueliners returning next year.– That is, with the caveat that Jonathan gets a new hair stylist.– Austin, not bad for a worthless freshman who couldn’t play on a varsity hockey team three years ago. Me thinks your state record of 43 goals and 29 assists in 23 games is going to stand for a while. Go get ’em at Princeton.
— Austin will tell you this and has said it numerous times before. He doesn’t go off like this with out Biegs and Evan Sherer. Biegler and Chow have been mates for years and Sherer, the Taos Kid, was the perfect complement.– Repeat after me, Brad Myers is a greaser. The Greaser. Myers made a tremendous adjustment by leaving the ABA and took on a leadership role his new line.– Let’s talk about that Myers line. The answer to the above trivia question is Myers’ wing Casey Kleisinger. Yes, Casey did it under the radar this year. Expect big things from him next year. The same for Derek Byron. His game Saturday showed his makeup. Earlier in the afternoon he had his hip reset and skated most of the game.– A lot has been said about the third and fourth lines and backup goalie Foster Fox, who had little playing time except in routs. It was tough, but your contribution came in practice, making the top two lines better. What’s more the torch is being passed to you, Kodi Wyatt, Chris Chase, Jason Funk. Kyle Woods and Barrett Chow.– Yes, Barrett, you’ve got another three years. Times may be tough now, but you and your teammates have a lot of hockey ahead of you. Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614 or email@example.com.