Indians spoil Senior Night at Dobson
VAIL – The Cheyenne Mountain Indians are Colorado hockey royalty. In 31 years of CHSAA hockey, the Indians have made the Frozen Four each season with 14 state titles to their credit, their last in 2004. And after a 4-1 win over Battle Mountain Friday night at Dobson, don’t bet against yet another Frozen Four appearance in two weeks.”It’s been three years since we’ve had (a state title),” Indians coach Mike Provenzano said. “These guys carry a big legacy, the weight of all of those teams. They have to get it done. Sometimes, it’s a big weight.”Friday night, that weight came tumbling down on the Huskies in the form of an Alex Lofthus hat trick and superb netminding by Cheyenne’s Nick Robertson. Battle Mountain fell to 6-3-2 in the Peak Conference and 11-5-2 overall. Of greater concern, the Huskies are 2-3-1 in their last six with those wins both coming against hapless Mitchell.Meanwhile, Cheyenne finished the regular season at 9-1-2 and 14-3, and will be shooting for another state title when CHSAA releases the playoff bracket Sunday.”That’s obviously the only goal,” Lofthus said. “It’s nice to have the team coming together. Hopefully, we can go deep.”Senior Night spoiled
The Huskies did not envision their final game on Dobson ice to unfold like it did Friday. The Indians dropped three on Battle Mountain in the first period.In all fairness to Huskies senior goalie Foster Fox, there was nothing he could do to stop them. Battle Mountain’s defense was not sharp early and Cheyenne was sizzling.”We came out flat tonight, no question,” Huskies coach Gary Defina said. “We got too far behind to catch a team like Cheyenne Mountain.”Whether it was Senior Night nerves or some players not being ready, as Defina said, Cheyenne was on the board before the three-minute mark. An errant clearing attempt left Fox defenseless against two Cheyenne forwards. The Indians’ Ethan Jevik put his team up 1-0.Less than a minute later, The Lofthus Show began. Jeff Royce fed Lofthus on an odd-man break and the latter beat Fox short side for his first of the evening.The Indians went up 3-0 on a sterling individual effort by Lofthus. With his knees on the ice, Lofthus somehow back-handed the puck by Fox.”He’s a clutch guy,” Provenzano said. “When we have to have it, he comes through for us.”In the Nick of timeThe Huskies got their legs in the second period and started producing scoring opportunities. Kodi Wyatt lit the lamp for the Huskies on the power play with the helper going to blueliner Jonny Stevens.
But that was it. Robertson made several outstanding saves on great Battle Mountain chances, preventing the Huskies from making it a game.”When we’re going into the locker room after the second period with one goal against us, instead of what should have been seven or eight, it makes it so much easier to play,” Lofthus said. “We knew if we make a couple of defensive lapses, he’s going to be there.”Provenzano called Robertson, “the big difference in the game.””This rink’s kind of dark,” Robertson said. “I don’t know. I was having a hard time seeing the puck the first period. I kind of caught my rhythm in the second. I just went from there.”Battle Mountain pulled Fox late for an extra attacker after calling a timeout. Cheyenne’s Matt Lee won the faceoff and promptly fed Lofthus for the empty-netter.Steamboat and beyondThe top-eight teams from the Peak Conference make the playoffs, which start next weekend. At the end of play Friday, Cheyenne (9-1-2) led with 20 points and has no games remaining. Air Academy (8-1-2) can win the conference crown – the Kadets have the tiebreaker against the Indians – with a win against Rampart today.Then it gets messy. Pueblo County is in third with 18 points, but out of games. Lewis-Palmer, fourth place with 16 points, can pass Pueblo with a win over Palmer today.
Rampart and Battle Mountain are tied for fifth with 14 points, but the Rams hold the tiebreaker here. The Huskies will be rooting for Air Academy today against Rampart, while trying to take care of business down in Eagle against Steamboat, which is in seventh place with 12 points.Pine Creek holds down the eighth slot and will likely clinch that spot with a win at Mitchell today.Whatever permutations, Battle Mountain needs to get its game back for Steamboat at the Eagle Ice Rink tonight at 8.”It’s very important,” Defina said. “We don’t want to go into the playoffs with a loss. I think it’s really important to get us going in the right direction here.”Ice chipsFox, Andreas Apostal, Derek Byron, Ben Godec, Jason Funk, Kyle Woods and Jordan Van Voorst were honored on Senior Night for Battle Mountain. … The seeding committee meets at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday in Denver. Defina will be representing Battle Mountain there. The playoff bracket goes up on chsaa.org later in the day. … The Daily’s three stars of the game were 1) Lofthus, 2) Robertson and 3) all the parents of Battle Mountain’s seniors.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.