Huskies vs. Kent Denver, redux
VAIL – Say “Steamboat Springs” to any Battle Mountain soccer player and the blood pressure will rise.Mention “Eagle Valley” to football and basketball teams and the blood will boil.In hockey, the Huskies and Summit play for the Shrine Pass Trophy. Fine and dandy. And, yes, Battle Mountain and Aspen have been playing each other since they were kids through club high school. Yeah, beating Cheyenne Mountain last weekend was nice.But, Battle Mountain’s undisputed archrival on the ice is Kent Denver. And, what a delightful coincidence that the Sun Devils are in town tonight for the Huskies’ home opener at Dobson at 6.The rivalry
Battle Mountain and Kent have met six times in three years with the latter holding a 3-2-1 advantage. The Huskies won or tied the first three meetings. The Sun Devils have won the last three.It’s not so much how these games have been contested, though each has been a doozy. It’s been the timing. The Huskies and Sun Devils have met three consecutive years in the state semifinals, with Kent eliminating Battle Mountain the last two years in Colorado Springs.As mentioned before, beating Cheyenne was nice. It avenged the Huskies’ loss in the 2002 state-title game. (As a sidenote, Battle Mountain beat Kent in double OT to face Cheyenne) But, only three current Huskies played in that game. Pretty much every player on the Battle Mountain roster has experienced last year’s gut-wrenching losses to the Sun Devils. Take our word for this, this game has been circled on the calendar since the schedule came out.Games to remember– Feb. 12, 2002, Dobson, “The Post” – It is only fitting that this rivalry began with controversy. Kent Denver led the first meeting, 2-1, with 3:37 remaining in regulation. That’s when Howdy Tuthill fed Michael Medina. His shot either cracked the back of the net and careened out or hit the post, depending on one’s allegiances. It was ruled a goal. The two teams skated to a 2-2 tie.
Kent Denver coach David Labbett was not a happy camper.”I don’t know. The ref made the call where I was, behind the blueline,” Labbett said. “I don’t know. I don’t think you can make that call 60 feet away, can you?”Medina insisted it was nothing but net. On a personal note, I saw a video replay shot from above and I tend to agree with Labbett.Then-coach Ken Bielski said after the game, “I had hoped before tonight we don’t want to see Aspen until the (state finals). I’ll change that. The last team I want to see is Kent Denver. The story of the night was the shock from our team that there’s somebody out there as good as us.”– Feb. 26, 2002, Air Force, “Double OT” – Instead, Bielski and company got Kent in the semis and it was a barn burner. Forty-five minutes weren’t enough. For the second straight game in the playoffs that year, Battle Mountain went into double overtime. With both teams absolutely spent, Brock Hovey finally ended it with 3:04 left in the second frame.”It bounced off the board and I rifled it through the five-hole,” Hovey said “I was really nervous. Keith (Denton) had pulled one back like that earlier in the game and I missed it wide. This time, I tweaked it more to the left, heard it hit the net and raised my hands.”
— Dec. 11, 2002, Dobson, “Second Star” – This was likely the worst of the series, but still a tight 2-1 Huskies’ victory. Austin Chow to Denton gave Battle Mountain a tenuous 1-0 lead. Matt Heelan to Denton to Chow in the second put the Huskies ahead for good.Jade Kersey, Battle Mountain’s second head coach, was none too pleased with his team’s effort when he gave away the three stars of the game.”I would say that the No. 1 star was (Huskies goalie) Eric Hansen. No. 2 star was Kent Denver and the third star was the officials tonight. I thought they did a good job,” he said.It should be noted that that’s about the only time a Huskies coach has had anything nice to say about officiating.– Feb. 28, 2003, Air Force, “Kent’s Revenge” – The Sun Devils were still smarting from the 2002 semifinal and they took it out on the Huskies. Jason Chase tied it at one, but that was all that Battle Mountain would get. It was tight until the end, but Kent’s 4-1 win denied the Huskies a rematch with Cheyenne in the finals. Kent went on to win the state title.”Kent Denver was obviously an extremely physical team,” Kersey said. “They picked up a couple of players during the course of the season. They were extremely physical and took us out of our game. We couldn’t get going. I give full credit to Kent Denver for executing their gameplan. We got beat by a better team.”
— Dec. 12, 2003, Denver, “The Choke” – Battle Mountain was the better team in last year’s regular season affair – for 43 minutes. Up 3-1, and on the power play, Battle Mountain gave up two goals in regulation and lost it in overtime, 4-3. It was likely the Huskies’ most ghastly loss in the history of the program. “Last year, they come up here and we beat them, 2-1, and they came back and beat us in the playoffs,” Kersey said. “We talked about it. We said, ‘Let’s hope history repeats itself.’ We lose early in the season and win late.”– Feb. 26, 2004, World Arena, “Devastation” – This was the Huskies’ year. Battle Mountain’s only loss of the season had been to Kent. The way the Huskies had been playing, it had to be a fluke. For the team’s 11 seniors it was time for a state title and the road went through Kent in the semis.Nope. Kent went up 3-0 after two periods, before Battle Mountain awoke. The Huskies threw the kitchen sink at the Devils, closing to 4-3. But, Sun Devils’ goalie Jon Rude stopped four shots in the final 10 seconds of the game.The dream for the Class of 2004 was over. Battle Mountain’s locker room was deathly silent, interrupted only up intermittent sobbing. Outside the locker room parents and coaches were walking around dazed and red-eyed.”It’s like a thousand knives going in at once,” Chase said. “It’s the worst feeling you’ll ever have.”
“We were excited,” Denton said. “We thought we might get a lucky bounce somewhere. It just never happened.”Round 7 And so, they meet again. The Huskies are 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll. Kent (No. 2) is 2-2 with a 2-0 loss to Cheyenne Mountain and a 3-2 loss to Aspen. If you believe in transitivity – Battle Mountain has victories over both the Indians and the Skiers – the Huskies are the favorites. But, you never know with these two teams. The only certainty is that anything can happen and almost surely will.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614 or email@example.com.