Huskies hockey ready for Regis
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado ” There were no “Win one for Gipper” speeches Friday afternoon at practice at the World Arena in Colorado Springs as Battle Mountain had its final skate before today’s state-championship game at 1:30 p.m. against No. 2 Regis.
Instead, the No. 1 Huskies got some words from a surprise visitor and familiar face after Friday’s 45-minute walk-through ” Colorado College sophomore forward Mike Testwuide.
“I know a lot of kids in that locker room and it’s exciting to see kids from Vail about to win a state championship,” said Testwuide, who started playing hockey at Dobson Arena with the then-Vail Junior Hockey Association. “I really like their chances. Coming into this building, they’re going to do really well.
“I was just telling them that I was proud of them, and it’s a big honor to win a state championship in Colorado in a state where high school hockey is growing tremendously. I just told them I was proud and to do it for Vail and do it for everybody that they represent.”
And it was clear by the shouts of “Mikey” coming from the Huskies’ locker room that the visit was appreciated.
“It’s great for the kids,” Battle Mountain coach Gary Defina said. “The kids all respect him. They know what he’s done, he and his brother, J.P. (at Denver University). They were psyched when he came in there.”
“Whenever you see a guy like that coming in and talking to us, it’s really cool,” Huskies forward Ryan Maddux said.
After knocking off No. 5 Ralston Valley, 2-0, in Thursday’s semifinals, the Huskies went up into the stands to watch Regis emerge a 5-4 winner in overtime against No. 3 Lewis Palmer.
The Raiders held a 4-2 lead after two periods, but the Rangers forced overtime with a third-period rally. Regis’ Austin Miller got his team to the finals with a knuckler of a shot 1:44 into the extra frame which somehow eluded Rangers goalie Colin Anonsen.
“I couldn’t believe it. Fortune smiled on us,” Regis coach Dan Woodley said after the game. “I think it’s as simple as that. That team we just played is a fine team. They showed a lot of character to come back and have us on our heels. … There’s nothing you can really say about one team winning or losing. It was fortunate.”
That having been said, teams at the Frozen Four usually make their luck. The Raiders enter today’s game with a 19-1-1 record. The Raiders avenged their only loss of the season by beating Lewis Palmer. Regis’ only other blemish was a 2-2 with Kent Denver. Regis knocked off Ralston Valley, 3-2, in January in Foothills Conference play.
Regis’ Connor Hayes had two goals Friday night and is second on the team with 32 points (12-20). Battle Mountain will also have to keep an eye on Nick Carey (22-11).
“We saw some strengths and weaknesses,” Defina said. “They’ve definitely got some big forwards who skate and are handy. They’re very much like Ralston. They have three or four really good forwards, three solid lines who can play.”
Woodley anticipates a close game between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the state.
“It will be one heck of a game,” he said. “They’re a great defensive team and they have excellent hockey players. We haven’t seen them yet this year. I have to give kudos to this league for having a 1-2 final. That’s unbelievable. With all the talent now and all the skilled teams out there, to come out with 1-2 is unbelievable.”
And, yes, Woodley referred to Battle Mountain as “a great defensive team.” That’s not a surprise given the way the Huskies have been stingy this season, but it is somewhat amusing, given the program’s history. When Battle Mountain has made the Frozen Four in the past, the question for opposing teams has been “How do you stop Battle Mountain offensively?”
“It hasn’t been Battle Mountain’s M.O.,” Defina said. “(Past) teams have been loaded with scoring and they’ve never won it. That’s why. Defense wins championships. Offense wins lots of regular season games. You’ve got to be able to shut down teams in the playoffs.”
And one indicator which might be in Battle Mountain’s favor has been goals allowed in the playoffs. The Huskies have let in just two goals in three games, while the Raiders have allowed four goals twice in the postseason (Standley Lake and Lewis-Palmer).
“We were watching them and both teams looked like, when they were under pressure, they couldn’t handle the puck that well,” Maddux said. “We’re looking to pressure them hard, forecheck hard on the puck.”
Usually, the state finals are played the day after the semifinals, but the Frozen Four this year is being worked around Testwuide and Colorado College hockey, which hosts Minnesota State-Mankato Friday and Saturday nights.
That gives both teams a day off between the semis and finals, and both teams seem to like it.
Regis went back to Denver Thursday night, and the Raiders attended classes and had their usual skate afterward. Meanwhile, the Huskies stayed in the Springs, hitting the books in the morning, and having another practice on the World Arena’s Olympic-sized ice. (The standard NHL rink is 200-by-85 feet, while international ice is 200-by-100.)
It was apparent early in Thursday’s semifinals that the Huskies were still struggling with the bigger sheet.
“Obviously, the more you play on it, the more you get used to it,” Maddux said. “It really helps a lot.”
The Huskies were scheduled to watch Colorado College, which is atop the WCHA standings, play Friday night.
“We’ll check out what they’re doing and hopefully duplicate it,” Maddux said.
Check back to http://www.vaildaily.com during Saturday’s game for updates.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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