Huskies draw Mitchell in Round 1
EAGLE-VAIL – The sun rose on Sunday morning and CHSAA released the 2006 state hockey bracket, and the was much rejoicing in Huskies Nation.There will be no conspiracy theories about how CHSAA is trying to submarine Battle Mountain hockey’s chances of a state title. There be no whining about how the Huskies have to go through a bunch of state powers just to make the state finals.And for old-school Huskies fans, there is no way Battle Mountain can face Kent Denver until the finals.No complaining this year, folks, because this is about the best draw the Huskies have ever received. No. 3 Battle Mountain is in he lower half of the bracket, while No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain, No. 4 Air Academy, No. 5 Machebeuf, No. 8 Kent Denver and No. 12 Aspen all get to beat each other up in the upper half.While Huskies coach Gary Defina said that Cheyenne is the undisputed No. 1 until proven otherwise, he likes the draw. “The way I look at it Cheyenne seems to have separated itself from the pack,” he said. “From No. 2 Pueblo to No. 12 Aspen, there really isn’t a lot of difference. I bet you any of those teams could beat each other on any given day.”I think it’s great that Cheyenne fell into the other bracket, and I like that Kent fell into Cheyenne’s (regional) because Kent pounded us.”The Huskies, who open against lowly Mitchell Friday at 5 p.m. in Steamboat, are 6-2 against their half of the bracket and 4-4-1 against the other side. Battle Mountain’s chief obstacles on the way to the state finals at the World Arena on Feb. 25 are No. 6 Rampart and No. 2 Pueblo.
It seems that seeding karma has finally come Battle Mountain’s way.A breakdown of the playoffs by region:Steamboat SpringsBattle Mountain gets the mountain draw this year after going to Denver last winter. With the caveat of taking no one lightly in the playoffs, the Huskies should have no problem with Mitchell Friday night. The Marauders have returned to the playoffs – a difficult thing to do because that means you actually missed the playoffs previously, a feat harder than actually qualifying – on a cupcake nonconference schedule.Battle Mountain’s second-round opponent, knock wood, will be the Rampart-Steamboat winner. Rampart is a curious sixth seed. (Of course, I said that about Machebeuf last year, and the Buffaloes came within a goal of the finals.) The Rams do have two wins against Aspen, which seemed to take a mysterious dive after a strong start to the season. Palmer also has wins over No. 9 Regis and No. 7 Peak to Peak. Bu these same Rams have been smoked twice by Air Academy and have lost to the Metro’s Palmer, Machebeuf and Pueblo.Steamboat is a known quantity. As hosts, they would love to knock the Huskies out of the playoffs. The two teams met in January with the Sailors winning, 3-2. It should be noted that the Huskies were without the services of Casey Kleisinger, Kyle Woods and Coulter Somes for that one.
One warning here: No. 3 Aspen looked like it had an easy draw to the Frozen Four, and gagged on home ice.The pick: “The kids know and they are focused,” Defina said. “Every game is do or die. We’ve just got to play better every game.” I agree with Coach. The Huskies advance to the Frozen Four for the fifth straight year.Superior Metro (Lower bracket)No. 2 Pueblo is the top seed here and should have no problem with No. 15 Palmer in the first round in what amounts to a glorified Metro conference scrimmage. At 16-3, the Hornets’ record looks nice. The problem is that the Pueblo played nobody in its nonconference slate except for Cheyenne, a 5-1 loss. The team’s other two losses are to No. 3 Battle Mountain and No. 5 Machebeuf.Also take into account Pueblo’s physical style of play. If a good-skating team tries to match the Hornets hit-for-hit, it loses. Stay disciplined and a good team can beat Pueblo on special teams.That’s where No. 7 Peak to Peak comes into play. The Pumas can skate. They’ve been throttled by Cheyenne twice, but have wins over Kent and Aspen.
The pick: Peak to Peak gets by Pine Creek in Round 1, and pulls the “upset” against the Hornets.Denver At 18-0-1, there’s no doubt that Cheyenne’s the team to beat. The Indians will cruise by Doherty in their opener. The kicker is the Indians’ second-round match.Kent Denver vs. Regis.This is not exactly a reward for a No. 1 seed. As Battle Mountain fans know, Regis is a strong postseason team. And as Battle Mountain fans know, Kent is a living nightmare of a postseason team.Kent should get by Regis, setting up the best of the quarterfinal games Saturday.The pick: Having covered Huskies hockey for five years, I really want to pull the trigger on Kent, but the Indians go to Colorado Springs. This one could go into overtime, though.
Superior Metro (Upper bracket)Call this the “Pick ’em bracket.” Three of the for teams – all but Summit – have a shot at the Frozen Four. After dispatching Summit, No. 4 Air Academy plays the Machebeuf-Aspen winner.This opens a can of worms. Which Machebeuf team will show up? Can Aspen reverse its second-half nosedive. Which Kadets will be on hand? This is anyone’s for the taking.The pick: The defending state champs, Air Academy, land at the World Arena.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado