Huskies hockey draws Aspen in the playoffs
DENVER, Colorado ” Battle Mountain hockey will be wearing its home whites when the playoffs start on Friday. The Huskies just won’t be the home team.
The good news is that Battle Mountain (13-6) is the No. 6 seed and is going the Aspen Regional, as opposed to Colorado Springs. The bad news is the that Huskies will line up against the host No. 11 Skiers (13-6) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Now answering the question, “Why is the better-seeded team essentially playing a road game?” Each year, CHSAA holds three regionals on the Front Range and one in one of the four mountain towns which have hockey. The mountain site rotates on a yearly basis and it was Aspen’s turn. If the Skiers made the playoffs, they were going to be at home regardless of seed.
CHSAA also tries to minimize travel in the first two rounds, thus, the Huskies were shipped to Aspen. (Of course, try telling that to No. 4 Summit County, which instead of going to Littleton and Arvada, is the top seed down at Sertich in Colorado Springs. Seeding remains an imprecise science.)
Answering the next question, “Didn’t Battle Mountain host when it was the No. 1 seed in the state in 2008 and 2004?” Yes, but that was merely coincidence. The Huskies, like the Skiers this year, were going to be at Dobson no matter what.
And Summit last year, despite beating Battle Mountain twice during the regular season, had to come over the pass in keeping with CHSAA’s minimal travel rule.
“It’s going to be tough,” Huskies coach Gary Defina said. “They’ve been playing great. I think they’ve only lost one game since Christmas. But we’ll go in there with confidence. We’ve beaten them once and our kids know if they play like they did (Saturday against Rampart), they can beat anybody.”
The Huskies and Skiers met in the finale of the season-opening Mountain Tournament in Steamboat Springs on Dec. 6 with Battle Mountain winning, 2-1. The interesting thing about that game was that both teams entered their final game of the round-robin at 0-2, a rarity in that tournament.
Both teams got off to slow starts with the Skiers losing five of their first six games. The Huskies started 1-2 before winning eight of nine starting from Dec. 12-Jan. 19.
Aspen has won 12 of its last 13 with its only loss coming to Regis by a count of 5-1. Since Regis is the defending state champion, having beating the Huskies in double overtime in last year’s state final, and has been the consensus No. 1 all season, there’s no shame in that.
The Huskies, after a brief skid with losses to Lewis-Palmer, Palmer and Pueblo, have won three-straight to right the ship, going into Friday’s game, including a 1-0 overtime thriller against Rampart Saturday in Eagle.
The Skiers and Huskies are both 6-3 against their common opponents this season. Both teams lost to both Steamboat and Summit at the Mountain Tournament in December. Aspen beat Peak to Peak, 2-1, in a nonconference game and then lost to the Pumas, 5-2, in Foothills Conference play.
The Huskies fell to Peak to Peak Jan. 3 at Dobson in listless fashion, 4-0, understandable in that it was the first game back from the holiday break. Battle Mountain won its rematch in Peak Conference play with Steamboat, 5-2.
Heritage, Kent Denver, Valor Christian, Cheyenne Mountain and Fountain Valley were all wins for both teams.
Around the state
Friday night’s winner faces the victor of No. 3 Lewis-Palmer and No. 14 Standley Lake. The Huskies who finished second in the Peak behind the No. 3 Rangers would doubtless like another shot at Lewis-Palmer, if they get by the Skiers.
No. 1 Regis is no surprise as the host at Littleton. The Raiders start their title defense with No. 16 Doherty and face the winner of No. 8 Steamboat and No. 9 Peak to Peak.
Ralston Valley, the second seed, leads the pack in Arvada, starting with No. 15 Kent. Pueblo and Palmer are in the other match-up at The Apex.
No. 4 Summit has a task very similar to that of the Huskies, “hosting” No. 13 Cheyenne Mountain at Sertich, essentially a home game for the underdog Indians. No. 5 Machebeuf and No. 12 Rampart are also down in the Springs.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
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