Here comes Huskies hockey … again
As our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, was known to say, “Well they’re they go again.”While none of the members of the current Battle Mountain hockey were alive during the Reagan administration, take my word for it, Huskies. Just ask your parents.Huskies hockey is back in the playoffs, and more impressively so as a No. 3 seed, taking on No. 14 Mitchell today at 5 p.m. up in Steamboat.A few – OK, everybody – in the local community might recall that I wrote this team off at the beginning of the calendar year after two players were suspended for M.I.P. – minor in possession (of alcohol). At the time, those players would have been ineligible for the playoffs because a CHSAA rule requiring a player to participate in 15 of the team’s 19 regular season contests.Had the players not successfully appealed that ruling – saying that the rule was to prevent teams from adding club players as opposed to punishing athletes who were disciplined for in-house team rules violations – I would still be standing by my prediction.But that’s not the point. With or without the two players being eligible for the postseason and regardless of what happens in the playoffs, this hockey team has done a marvelous job of proving me dead wrong.Rising to the challenge
From year to year, every team in every sport is different when it comes to talent and character. The 2005-06 edition of Huskies hockey had Big Foot-sized shoes to fill. With or without the two suspended players, this team doesn’t have the talent of Battle Mountain’s four previous teams.This team makes up for that gap with sheer grit. Every time, this team has faced adversity, it’s answered.The Huskies opened with an 8-4 loss to Aspen, and rallied with four straight wins, including big victories against Air Academy and Peak to Peak.Some big mouth at the Daily rips them? The Huskies go out and pound Palmer in the home opener.Suspensions to key players? The team not only sticks together and holds its own in the Metro race, but uses it as an opportunity to develop previously unknown talent. No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain without their suspended players? Though it was a loss, the Huskies played one of their best games of the season.The first home loss in program history? Heck, they’ve started a new streak.From the top
I’m probably not on the top of the list on head coach Gary Defina’s Christmas card list, but he and assistants, Brian Deem and Mike Gish, deserve a lot of credit here. They kept this bunch together through rough times.And that’s not easy when you’re in the revolving door that is Huskies hockey coaching. Everyone is always second-guessing you, including silly newspaper people.Defina and company had a plan from the beginning and they’ve stuck to it, despite the bumps in the road. They knew they weren’t going to blow people out of the water, as in past years. The emphasis was on player development and improving as the season progressed.Well done on that count. This is a better team than the one that started with practice in November. Just look at the team’s last five games. The Huskies have allowed just eight goals in that span.New facesThen, there are the players. The suspensions were a blessing in disguise. While Derek Byron was not a well-kept secret, he’s blossomed into the team’s MVP. Nor was Jonny Stevens who’s a double threat as a defenseman.Jason Funk has proved his stripes. Kodi Wyatt’s shown how much he was missed last year. Barrett Chow, nice job becoming your own hockey player. Coulter Somes is equally valuable at both forward and defense. And yes, Casey Kleisinger’s pretty good. (Just keep your head about you, Casey.)The defense, a strength at the beginning of the season, has lived up to billing. Then, there’s Foster Fox in net. The learning curve here has been exponential. Very shaky at the beginning of the season, The Fox has developed into a strong last line of defense. If you were at Saturday’s Machebeuf game, you know what I mean.
I didn’t mention everybody, and one can’t. That’s because at one time or another this season someone has always stepped up to the moment.Out of habitAll this having been said, those who know me know that I am rather superstitious about Battle Mountain sports. There’s a reason I’ve eaten Burger King for the last two falls for boys’ soccer. I’ve brought basketball coach Philip Tronsrue Pepsi and peanut m&m’s before each home game for a year-plus.And since writing off the hockey team seemed to work last month, here’s the playoff edition:Defina, you can’t coach. Kleisinger and Byron can’t score in the postseason. Fox couldn’t stop a beach ball. This team can’t deal with adversity. The Huskies have no heart. Battle Mountain’s going to lose to Mitchell.There I go again.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado