Penalties sink Huskies hockey in loss to Sailors
Battle Mountain takes first loss of season
VAIL — Fans returned to Dobson Arena for Friday afternoon’s Battle Mountain hockey game against Steamboat Springs.
Apparently, absence has not made the collective heart grow fonder. Huskies fans still really don’t like the referees.
A correctly adjudicated 5-minute major penalty for head contact to the Huskies’ Sonny Nordstrand in the first period led to two power-play goals and a 4-2 Steamboat victory over Battle Mountain, the Huskies’ first loss of the season.
“I would say we lost the game in the first period,” Huskies coach Derek Byron said. “We just couldn’t get it together after that.”
Friday’s game looked very much like the third meeting in three weeks between two teams that aren’t particularly fond of each other — the game featured 12 minors, the aforementioned major and the accompanying 10-minute game misconduct.
While fans, coaches and players can go back and forth over minor penalties — should they let them play or call it tightly? — there was no disputing the most critical call of the day.
“Head contact,” in this case, is a nice name for punching someone in the, well, head, which, unfortunately, Nordstrand, doubtless in the heat of the moment, did with 2:18 left in the first period.
Maybe a player can get away with socking another player in the NHL but not in high school hockey. Any form of fighting is a visit to the five and dime store — a 5-minute major and 10-minute misconduct that comes with ejection.
Is the entirety of the loss at Nordstrand’s feet? Absolutely not. Yes, the Huskies allowed two goals on the major, but thy also did a tremendous job killing off a bunch of minors that left them with 3:37 of being on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 power play.
Battle Mountain deftly put out the threat and down, 2-0, had 30 minutes of regulation time after killing off the 5-on-3 to erase the deficit. Yet by that time, the Huskies were too consumed with the refs than playing hockey.
So the lesson that emerges from this one is to focus on what one can control and not bother with factors beyond one’s power. If the Huskies are going where they want to go this season, they will be behind and need to keep their cool to come back.
Despite falling to 5-1-1, Battle Mountain lost nothing in the big picture with the loss. Yes, Battle Mountain is playing conference teams for the entire season — twice against Summit, Glenwood Springs, Crested Butte and Aspen and thrice against Steamboat — but Friday afternoon’s game was not a league game.
The Huskies beat Steamboat, 7-2, on Jan. 30 at Dobson in the Mountain Conference meeting between the two schools. In fact, the Huskies went 2-0-1 against Steamboat, Summit and Glenwood in the official league games during the first week of the season.
Please don’t ask us why the first three games of the season delayed by a global pandemic were the league contests. We don’t understand that either, but go with it because, well, Battle Mountain is still sitting pretty.
Along those lines, today’s game at Aspen is the league contest against the Skiers. Battle Mountain and Aspen have a long-standing rivalry whose general mood will not be improved by the Huskies’ loss on Friday.
The Huskies looked like they were going to skate the Sailors out of the building in the first 10 minutes of the game with quality shots, but nothing to show for it.
The 5-minute major halted all of that momentum. Steamboat’s Walker Ripley and Cade Baier scored during the penalty for a 2-0 lead.
It should have been a lot more, but Battle Mountain goalie Logan Gremmer kept his squad in the game. Officially, he faced 22 shots, making 19 saves. It felt like more.
Gremmer was under siege during the 5-minute major and the ensuing 3:37 of 5-on-3 time and held the line. Ripley had a breakaway during the first minute of the middle stanza, but Gremmer came out and stuffed him with his pads.
Gremmer stood tall again when two Huskies defenders collided, leaving the Sailors’ Lukas Znamenacek a free path to the net. Znamenacek got nothing and liked it.
Battle Mountain also almost got back into it when Wyatt Horn scored with 1:34 left in the second, cutting the margin to 3-2.
That seemed to be the moment when everyone sat up in the arena and collectively thought, “OK, here we go. They’re coming back.”
Just 51 seconds later, though, Maxwell Kenney redirected a Ripley shot past Gremmer to push the Sailors’ lead back to 3-1.