Huskies clinch fourth Metro crown |

Huskies clinch fourth Metro crown

BMH Casey Kleisinger PU 2-11

VAIL – And still the champ.For the fourth straight year, Battle Mountain hockey sits atop the Metro Conference after a 4-1 win Saturday night over Bishop Machebeuf at Dobson.While the first three conference championships were cakewalks, this year’s title was anything but, perhaps making this go-round a bit sweeter. The Huskies finished the conference slate tied at 10-2 with Machebeuf and Pueblo.While all three teams are co-champs of the league, Battle Mountain eliminated Machebeuf from earning the conference’s top seed and an automatic berth in the state bracket’s top-three with its 4-1 win. By beating the Buffaloes by three goals, The Huskies broke the tie with Pueblo by virtue of playing in more overtime games this season, 2-1. Despite heavy losses to graduation, naysayers in the media (yes, that would be the author) and a season of adversity off the ice, the Huskies are back in the playoffs as one of the top teams in the state.”It’s huge. Like we said, we started off slow. We knew we were going to have some growing pains, but we’re peaking at the right time,” Huskies coach Gary Defina said. “We’re right where we want to be. We have some momentum and we’re playing well.”

While Saturday was sweet for all involved, it was especially so for the team’s two seniors, Chris Chase and Matt Heelan.”When I was a freshman we had two seniors, Paul Agneberg and Steve Reid,” Chase said. “That was a lot of fun, having two seniors. Now that it’s only me and Matty and we get to experience the same thing that they did with another team of young kids, it’s a really awesome experience.””It’s a lot of fun,” Heelan said. “We worked hard as a team, and it all came together very nicely.”A season in a nightThe Huskies faced adversity – some of it from the Buffaloes and some self-inflicted – and overcame it. Battle Mountain’s youth showed itself with at times some undisciplined play matched by equally brilliant play during other times.

In short, Saturday’s game was essentially a microcosm of Battle Mountain’s regular season. “Great game. A little adversity, injury, a little bit of everything in that game,” Defina said. “A helluva game, though.”Playing without Casey Kleisinger, who sat the first period for a game misconduct incurred against Summit Tuesday, the Huskies were on their heels. Enter goalie Foster Fox.He kept Battle Mountain in the game on his way to stopping 31 of 32 shots. The only blemish on his night came on a Machebeuf 5-on-3 in the second.After a scoreless first, the Huskies got their footing. Barrett Chow sleekly came around the Buffaloes’ net and bounced his shot off a Machebeuf defender and into the net for a 1-0 lead.Kleisinger then won a faceoff and broke in all alone, easily beating Machebeuf’s Ryan Massa.

A turning point?Just as the game represented the ups and down for the team this year, it also reflected Klesinger’s tumultuous campaign. Late in the second, the junior was cleanly decked by a Buffaloes defender.Kleisinger responded with a cheap shot and was whistled for two minutes, one of a whopping 30 combined penalties for the two teams on the evening. Machebeuf’s Brett Wilday scored on the power play, halving the lead and endangering the Huskies’ chances of the needed three-goal win and the conference’s No. 1 seed.Coulter Somes fed the ever-steady Derek Byron for a 3-1 lead. Minutes later, Kleisinger was dragged down in the Machebeuf end, but didn’t get the call. Instead of barking at the refs, he kept skating and ended up feeding the puck to Jonny Stevens, who slammed home the puck for the critical fourth goal.”We had some talks about that this week, about controlling his emotions, and focusing them toward the opponent, and not the refs,” Defina said. “He did a nice job of that tonight.”

Ice chips The state playoff bracket comes out today on Battle Mountain will likely be ranked third in the state, but has an outside shot at No. 2. Cheyenne Mountain is a mortal lock for No. 1. … Defina’s three stars: 1) Chase and Heelan and 3) Fox. … Chase and Heelan were honored during the first intermission as a part of Senior Night. … Since both teams accumulated 15 minors each both Defina and Machebeuf coach Al Quintana are suspended for the first round of the playoffs Friday. Brian Deem and Mike Gish will fill in for Defina. … Your final Chuck-a-Puck winner was none other than Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or, Colorado

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