Huskies advance to hockey finals
COLORADO SPRINGS ” Perhaps, Battle Mountain hockey would rather just play with four skaters. The penalty kill has been that good this postseason.
The Huskies’ P.K. unit, which had the game-winning goal against Chatfield and the equalizer versus Summit County during last weekend’s playoff games, sparked Battle Mountain again Thursday night in a 2-0 win over Ralston Valley at World Arena to advance to Saturday’s finals at 1:30 p.m. here against Regis.
In the third period, the Huskies killed off a 5-on-3 and then forced a Mustangs’ penalty while short-handed. The eventual power play led to a Kodi Wyatt goal and that was all goalie Kalen Burnett needed as the Huskies skated to their third finals appearance in seven years.
“We practice (special teams) all the time,” Huskies coach Gary Defina said. “We knew (Ralston Valley) had one of the best power plays in the state. When we practice, it’s hard to tell if our power play is struggling or if our penalty kill is that good.”
“It keeps our legs moving,” Huskies forward Barrett Chow said. “You know you’re a man down.”
The Mustangs appeared to be to be taking control of the scoreless tie late in the second period and carried it over into the third. Battle Mountain’s Jonny Stevens took a wise hooking penalty with 14:21 to go and Eric Davis followed with interference, giving Ralston Valley a two-man advantage.
In a bit of foreshadowing, Wyatt broke the puck out of Battle Mountain’s end releasing Stevens. Then, Chow and and Lammert got a breakaway down 5-on-4.
“I got by my defenseman and heard Jake screaming for the puck. Somebody missed,” Chow joked with Lammert standing right by his side.
Lammert was off the mark, but Chow was dragged down by Ralson’s Chris Behnke. Twenty seconds later, the Huskies were on the power play and did not pass up the opportunity.
While the goal was officially unassisted, Wyatt said Lammert and Chow got him the puck at the top of the right point. Wyatt gripped it and ripped it and it went right through Mustangs goalie Sebastian Trujillo for a 1-0 lead.
“Exhilarating. Not much more you can say about that,” Wyatt said. “Nobody was open except for Jonny on the other side. I looked. I had an opening and I took it. I looked, and it just hit me. ‘Oh, my God.'”
“We had just switched Kodi to the point on the power play,” Defina said. “Goose (Gustav Philipson) had been a little uncomfortable there. That is great for Kodi. He’s been here all four years. He’s worked hard. He deserves it.”
The way Burnett was playing between the pipes, Battle Mountain was set. The Achilles’ heel of Battle Mountain hockey in its seven years has been having a goalie that can steal a game.
“Sasquatch is awesome,” Lammert said.”He told us that he would take care of everything that got by us.”
For the uninitiated, Burnett earned that appellation because he has a yeti on his mask. The junior posted the first shutout in school history at the Frozen Four, stopping all 18 shots he faced.
Burnett did get a little help from the goaltender’s best friend, the post, when Ralson’s Justin Hoffman clanked one off the iron late in the second. In the waning seconds of the middle stanza, the Mustangs’ Tanner Stansbury had a breakaway, but Burnett didn’t give him any room and the shot went wide.
“He was amazing,” Wyatt said. “Second period, they had a breakaway. It almost stopped my heart. What a save right there. It kept us in it. It kept us motivated.”
Burnett has a staunch defender in Defina.
“Kalen hasn’t allowed a goal in the playoffs when they’ve shot it on him,” the coach said. “Against Chatfield, the puck bounced off Connor (Tedstrom) and it was a lucky bounce off the boards against Summit.”
Burnett perhaps made his best save after Battle Mountain took the lead. With 9:31 left Stansbury had an opening, but Burnett got his left leg pad down to the ice quickly, snuffing out the scoring chance
“I didn’t do anything differently (before the game),” Burnett said. “They got a few screens, but I was seeing the puck well.”
With less than a minute, Ralston Valley pulled Trujillo from the net and Philipson did the honors. He slid the puck down the ice into the waiting twine for some insurance.
“I was shooting for it,” Philipson said. “I was just looking for a good angle. Fantastic.”
That would sum up the mood in the locker room after the game.
“This is big,” Chow said. “Jonny and I have been talking about this for a while now. We know what it is like to lose here and that drives you to make it never happen again.”
Defina’s three stars were 1) Burnett, 2) Wyatt and 3) Philipson … Philipson, who is having quite the year as a foreign exchange student from Sweden, said he enjoyed playing on the bigger ice surface. It’s the standard size he played on back home. … Battle Mountain’s penalty kill was 6-for-6 Thursday. … The Huskies had a sizable home-crowd advantage. Many parents and students were able to make the trip down to Colorado Springs and were considerably louder than Ralston Valley’s crowd. … Battle Mountain will stay in the Springs today and have a brief practice at 1 p.m. at the World Arena.
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