Huskies head to Frozen Four
There will be a first-time state champion in hockey this year.
Now before everyone associated with Battle Mountain hockey falls to their knees and screams, “This is finally the year,” just remember that this year’s Frozen Four is a whole new world.
When the No. 1 Huskies take to the ice at the World Arena at Colorado Springs Thursday at 6 p.m. against No. 5 Ralston Valley, Battle Mountain, of all teams, will have the most-accomplished postseason pedigree.
With apologies to Barrett Chow and Codi Kleisinger, this isn’t your brother’s Frozen Four. There is no Cheyenne Mountain, which will not be at the semifinals for the first time in 33 years of CHSAA hockey. The only way Air Academy goes to the World Arena is if the Kadets buy a ticket. Both went out in the first round.
And Huskies fans can find joy in that Kent Denver, eliminated in Round 2, also isn’t at the dance.
Ralston Valley, a second-year program, made the state finals last year, losing to Aspen. Meanwhile, Lewis-Palmer and Regis, which meet at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, are making their first appearances in the Frozen Four.
By comparison, the Huskies, making their sixth appearance in the semis in seven years, are in the unusual historical role of being the grizzled veterans when it comes to the big stage of the World Arena.
“Hockey is growing and changing in Colorado,” Huskies coach Gary Defina said. “It’s not like there are just six teams, so it’s easy to make it like Cheyenne. It’s good for hockey in the state to see some new faces and have a new champion.”
Taking a look at the new faces, here’s the rundown on Ralston Valley, Lewis-Palmer and Regis:
Head-to-head: First meeting.
Frozen Fours: One (2007).
Common results: Pueblo (W, 4-1 and 8-2), Chatfield (W, 8-1 and 3-1), Cheyenne Mountain (w, 4-0), Pine Creek (W, 5-1), Lewis-Palmer (T, 4-4), Summit (W, 5-2), Aspen (L, 3-1), Kent Denver (W , 5-2).
This was the game that was meant to happen last year, if you ask the Huskies. The Mustangs, were the No.1-ranked team in the state in last year’s playoffs. Battle Mountain needed to beat Standley Lake in the first round to set up the showdown, but had a surprising early exit.
The Mustangs and Huskies likely share a mutual distaste for Aspen. The Skiers not only took the state title from Ralston Valley last year, but won this year’s rematch, 3-1. The Mustangs only other loss this year was to Regis, 3-2.
Ralston Valley has balanced scoring with Drew Allen (16 goals, 15 assists), Tanner Stansbury (12-16), Graham Smith (11-12), Justin Hoffman (9-7) and Thomas Greene (8-18).
Matt Hardiek likely gets the start in goal for Ralston Valley.
Head-to-head: Huskies lead series, 1-0-1.
Frozen Fours: First appearance.
Common results: Rampart (W, 5-1 and 5-3), Pine Creek (W, 8-3 and 6-1), Ralston Valley (T, 4-4), Liberty (W, 6-0 and 10-0), Pueblo (W, 2-1), Mitchell (W, 9-0), Steamboat Springs (W, 3-0), Cheyenne Mountain, (W, 4-0), Coronado (W, 7-1), Palmer (L, 5-4), Doherty (W, 3-0), Air Academy (W, 3-0 and 3-2).
The Huskies and Rangers met in what was essentially the Peak Conference championship earlier this month at Dobson, with Battle Mountain winning, 3-2. The Huskies killed a 5-on-3 for nearly three minutes, which was the turning point.
Lewis-Palmer lost to Palmer, 5-4 after facing the Huskies, but has won four in a row since. The Rangers did have to go overtime to beat Air Academy in the first round.
Rangers for which to watch are Nick Galvin (17-15), Blake Cogburn (16-17), Steve Fillo (14-11), Travis Lachner (12-11) and Mike Fisk and Adrian Olson (15 assists each).
Colin Annonsen, though he didn’t have the best of games against the Huskies, had eight shutouts this year between the pipes.
Head-to-head: Huskies lead series, 3-1.
Frozen Fours: First appearance.
Common results: Pine Creek (W, 5-0), Liberty (W, 14-0), Air Academy (W, 3-1), Coronado (W, 9-0), Kent Denver (T, 2-2), Palmer (W, 4-1), Lewis-Palmer (L, 2-1), Aspen (W, 6-3 and 1-0), Chatfield (W, 3-2), Summit (3-2).
Going into the way-back machine, the Huskies and Raiders met during the second round of the 2002 state playoffs. Battle Mountain won on a Michael Medina goal, 5-4, in double overtime.
As for immediate business, Regis is looking to avenge a 2-1 home loss to Lewis-Palmer. The Raiders have the top scorer in the state left standing in Nick Carey (22-10), although Connor Hayes, Gregg Davis and John Booren all have 10 goals each.
The Raiders are positively stingy with David Nowicki in net.
Battle Mountain heads down to Colorado Springs Thursday morning and will have a short skate on the World Arena ice before the game. … The World Arena has an international-sized ice sheet. The Huskies beat Steamboat Springs, 6-0, the last time they played on the big ice. … The championship game is Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The semifinals and finals are not being played on back-to-back nights because Colorado College hockey is hosting Minnesota State Friday and Saturday night.
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