Ralston squeaks by Huskies, 1-0, in Vail
VAIL – It doubtless hurts, but Battle Mountain hockey has no regrets.
Ralston Valley’s Dillon Taylor scored with 6:01 left in the third period to lift the Mustangs to a 1-0 victory over the Huskies Friday night in Round 1 of the state playoffs at Dobson Arena.
“We’ve got a mature group,” Ralston Valley coach John McKibbon said. “This group has been through three years in a row to the Frozen Four. We’ve lost tight games in the state tournament before. To hang in there and get that one goal was huge for us.”
Unlike some of the games leading up to the playoffs, Battle Mountain got great goaltending from Curtis Hart and a superb defensive team effort. The only thing missing was an elusive goal.
“I was proud of every one of them,” Huskies coach Gary Defina said. “They worked their butts off. They competed hard. They got the break and we didn’t. They got one break and that’s it. What a game.”
Hart kept the Huskies in the game in the first period when they were outshot, 13-6.
“He gave us a chance to win. He played his guts out,” Defina said. “He made several great saves on breakaways and point-blank shots. He gave us a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask.”
The Huskies got some chances in the second period, especially on the power play, but couldn’t pounce on some of the rebounds Ralston goalie Cody Beusser left.
After Taylor scored in the third, things got weird. Ralston’s Mitchell Pijanowski slashed Hart after he covered up the puck and play stopped. Hart took exception and went after Pijanowski.
Pijanowski got two minutes, while Hart got a five-minute major and was ejected. This started a parade of penalties, 53 minutes in all during the final five minutes.
What resulted was lots of open ice with 3-on-3 play. This actually likely helped Battle Mountain in its effort to tie the game. The Huskies’ Mike Jones likely had the best chance to even it up. He came streaking out of the box and had a breakaway, only to be denied by Buesser.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, Defina called on Cameron Brown to replace Hart in net. Given the circumstances – his teammates were able to give him a few warm-up shots as all the penalties were being worked out – Brown did a fine job stopping several breakaways with a lot of open ice.
Battle Mountain finishes the season at 10-7-1.
“It’s a great group of seniors,” Defina said. ” (Senior) Connor (Tedstrom) made the statement in the locker room to the other kids to enjoy it and cherish it because he said it seemed just like yesterday when he was a freshman.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.