Huskies hockey puts up fight against Aspen
EAGLE — Truth be told, it was somewhat of a miracle that Battle Mountain hockey even made it to a point that the team was in a win-or-go-home game with the state playoffs on the line against Aspen on Friday at the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink.
Alas, there was no fairy tale ending for the Huskies as the visiting Skiers skated to a 4-1 win, capturing the eighth and last postseason berth in the Foothills Conference, yet Battle Mountain finishing the season is an accomplishment, given the trails and travails of this crew.
“They just played their hearts out,” Huskies coach Dennis Hextall said. “Out of 15 skaters we have, five didn’t play last year. The kids did everything we asked. What do you do? This team really played well.”
As with any high school team at any school — and the hockey team is conglomeration of all for local high schools — a squad is only as good as the kids who are coming through the feeder program. Everything in sports is cyclical, and, right now, Vail-Eagle Junior hockey is light on Midget or high-school age players. (Coach Hextall added that he sees a bumper crop in this year’s Bantams.)
The injury bug has also hit the Huskies, who suited up a whopping seven forwards and two defensemen on Friday night.
Throw in the expansion of Colorado high School hockey with big Front Range schools drawing players from a huge population base, and this Battle Mountain hockey team has been hard-pressed to compete, yet took a defiant attitude toward the struggles it’s faced.
“It’s fun. Nobody gave us a real shot at the beginning of the season,” senior Jack Lambert said. “We just wanted a chance to prove them wrong, play as hard as we could.”
A good Senior Night
Friday was the final home game for the Huskies, who are at Resurrection Christian tonight in the season finale.
Lambert, Jesse Relafors and Cody Osteen are the team’s three seniors who took their final bows.
Relafors is one of the five players, Hextall noted, who didn’t lace them up last year. He last played when he was 11 … in Sweden.
“I’ve always loved skating. Hockey’s been a passion of mine,” Relafors said. “I quit because I didn’t like my team. When I moved here, I got into this again. It was hard at first, getting all the muscles going again. But once I got the hang of it, it was cool after that.”
And contributions like that have been huge this year.
“We’re going to miss all three of them,” Hextall said of his seniors.
Fight to the finish
Aspen scored twice in the first with Dominic Lanese taking a defensive turnover and depositing it on the far side of the net. Lanese had his second on a helper from Connor O’Brien three minutes later.
That is probably one that Huskies goalie Max Clark would have like to have back, but given the amount of rubber the junior stopped on Friday night, chalk that goal up under the category of “stuff happens.” Clark had a busy and productive evening.
Battle Mountain was particularly productive killing off two five-minute majors against Aspen. But that does come with a cost, and Aspen scored twice in the third with the advantage — Burke Daily and Thomas Rybak — to put this one out of reach.
Even with the Huskies skating shifts of 2-3 minutes, intervals created out of outrageous necessity, they were rewarded for their persistence with Robby Gruber lighting the lap with 49.1 seconds to go. Zach Booth had the helper on that tally.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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