Huskies hockey has high hopes
No one will ever confuse Battle Mountain hockey’s nonconference slate with that of Nebraska or Kansas State.
So, the first question goes to coach Jade Kersey. What would you consider a good record going through that schedule?
“Yeah, 6-0 would be nice,” he said with a laugh.
Spirits are indeed high in Huskies hockey nation as the team prepares for its 7 p.m. opener Wednesday at Summit. Battle Mountain returns seven lettermen, the primary corps from last year’s team which went to the state finals. What’s more, the program seems to have overcome a tumultuous offseason, emerging with a clean slate.
“We’ve got some pretty strong leadership on the team,” Kersey said. “There were guys last year who really had to assume leadership roles even though they were younger. With a year more experience and a taste of coming so close to a championship, I think they’ve really stepped up and they’ve really created a good competitive atmosphere at practice and away from the rink as well.”
The Huskies will not lack for offensive firepower. Austin Chow, Jason Chase and Keith Denton, all among the leading scorers in the state last year, are back. Right now, Kersey has Chow with Steve Reid and Alex Biegler. Denton, Chase and Adam Weiss are shifting together. Brad Myers, Nate Simon and Turi Olsen make up another strong line. Matt Heelan, Chris Chase and the injured Jeff Savonen round out the forwards.
Look for the Huskies to use their speed as they did last year. Kersey will be emphasizing the quick-transition game through the neutral zone to create odd-man breaks.
On defense, the Huskies have experience in P.J. Bevan and Howdy Tuthill. They will be joined on the blueline by newcomers Keegan Keltner, Paul Agneberg, Andrew Thompson and Greg Garman.
“I’ve been very happy with the way our defense has come around,” Kersey said. “We’ve got some younger guys who have actually stepped into roles that they haven’t actually played in before. I don’t see defense just as a defensive corps. Defense is a team concept. I believe that our forwards have just as much defensive responsibility as the defensemen do.”
There are new faces between the pipes also. Eric Hansen was the third goalie last year and Eklund is new to high school hockey. But Kersey’s been pleased with their play during the club season.
“Eric’s been playing on the (Midget) AA team and he’s done quite well. Karl made huge strides with the (Midget) A’s this year,” he said. “I’m happy with the way they’re competing with each other in practice and pushing each other along. We’re just going to get out there and do what good teams do – eliminate a lot of second-shot opportunities and count on them to make that first save.”
There’s a new look to CHSAA hockey in 2002-03 with three conferences. Each team plays home-and-homes with their conference rivals and picks six nonconference opponents.
Battle Mountain landed in the Metro Conference with Mitchell, Palmer, Liberty, Machebeuf and Pueblo. The Huskies, who finished second in the state with a 15-2-2 mark in their maiden season, were 5-0 last year against teams in the Metro Conference.
The Huskies’ archrival, Aspen, will compete in the Mountain Conference along with defending state champion Cheyenne Mountain, Wasson, Coronado, Rampart, Regis and Steamboat. Based on last year’s standings, the Foothills Conference should be the toughest with Summit, Doherty, Pine Creek, Air Academy, Kent Denver and Colorado Academy.
The Huskies figure to be in the mix for the state title along with Cheyenne Mountain and all the teams Battle Mountain is playing in the aforementioned nonconference slate. But last year is last year, according to Kersey.
“Basically, I told them when they first came into the locker room that they’ve accomplished absolutely nothing,” Kersey said. “The thing is, as well as they did last year, that was last year. You can’t sit around on your laurels. You have to commit yourself every single day to accomplish something this year.”
Ice Chips: The team is blanketing the county with schedule posters. One note, though, the home opener was accidentally omitted. For the record, the Huskies open at home on Dec. 11 against Kent Denver, in a rematch of last year’s state semifinals. The puck drops at 6:45 p.m. at Dobson. Be there.
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at email@example.com.