Still state champs: Huskies hockey the day after
How cool is this?
Yep, still champs. Nope, you didn’t dream it.
Just like it was “Colonel Mustard, in the living room with the candlestick,” yes, it’s Hunter Davis, in the slot, with a wicked wrister over the shoulder, 2:13 into overtime.
There is joy in Mudville. The mighty Casey (Kleisinger?) did not strike out. We really should declare a good month’s worth of delirium that this finally happened.
The news, the notes and all the stuff that couldn’t get in on deadline follows.
A serious moment
We’re happy anyone in black and gold scored obviously. We had visions of this going 5OT. Not joking. The 2020 Colorado title game went 5OT. Fort Collins goalie Sam Simon made 84 saves in losing effort. By comparison, Logan Gremmer had a boring night with just 33 saves on Thursday.
Of course, it did not escape notice that young Davis scored the state-title goal and the significance therein. His father, Jeremy, passed away from COVID nearly a year ago, one of the first from Eagle County to pass from the pandemic.
From watching far too many games and races and other assorted events, sports does have a sense of karma. This was a richly-deserved special moment for Hunter, the Davis family and friends.
We all share in it.
Overtime and you
Here’s why Huskies hockey fans get a little skittish when it comes to the Frozen Four and overtime.
Before Thursday, the Huskies were 0-4 in title games and three of those losses came in overtime. I had been citing 2002 and 2006, but had simply repressed 2008. Alumnus Barrett Chow and Huskies hockey mom Carri Tedstrom, matriarch of the eponymous family including Connor, reminded me. Thanks a bleeping lot, Barrett and Carri — no, lovel to hear from you both as well as many alums.
History always means more to the fans than to the players themselves — who in this case were born no earlier than 2003 and don’t remember or quite give two cents about the past. As a fan — and fans, by and large, are irrational; fan is short for fanatic — we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It didn’t. Not only do the fans thank the 2021 Huskies, but previous generations of players do too.
The following is just a snippet of what is an endless list of people who have come before this year’s team: P.J. Bevan, Nate Simon, Brock Hovey, every Chase offspring who ever played hockey for the Huskies or Vail/Eagle Junior Hockey, the Dentons (Kyle, Kevin and Keith), the Chows (Austin and Barrett), the Stevenses (Jonny and McKenzie), Brad Myers, Casey Kleisinger, Alex Biegler, Connor Tedstrom, Jack Sunderland, Ken Bielski, Jade Kersey, Andy Hire, Gary Defina, Dennis Hextall and yes, Derek Byron as player back in the day and coach now.
After we played pass-the-phone — I interview Byron and then his phone gets passed to everyone else for interviews — I told Derek that he should skate the championship trophy on Nottingham Lake. Upon further review, the ice is melting, so not there. Go to Dobson, Coach.
The entire team should come with Byron and have a skate and pretend it’s the Stanley Cup. For social-distancing purposes, everyone involved wears white gloves like Phil Pritchard, aka the guy who travels with the Cup.
The story will always be that the Huskies finally expunged the demons of their past and won their first state title in overtime on a Davis goal. (Matteau, Matteau, Matteau.) But let’s remember this season almost never happened.
With COVID, the team was playing; then, it wasn’t. Practice schedules were all over the place. The game is scheduled and then it isn’t. Hey, we’ve got an idea — let’s play Aspen, Steamboat and Summit something like 26 times. The Crested Butte regular-season game is on. Now it’s not. And please don’t get me going on how the first of as many of three meetings always counted as the Mountain Conference game.
The Huskies had to play through this and play well because there was no margin for error. OK, there was a little margin for error with Crested Butte the first time, but you get where we’re going.
This group stuck together, dealing with all the changes in their routine — athletes like their routine — made the correct decisions to stay healthy and out of the COVID contact-tracing tests — not a small thing by any means — and were able to absorb the ups and downs.
When you’re playing a team three times in a season — not to mention that these kids have been playing their counterparts from Steamboat, Aspen, Summit and Glenwood since they were 6 with the VEJHA — the other team’s going to win once in a while. Steamboat did on Feb. 19 in brutal style and Aspen lives to wreck Battle Mountain’s season if the Skiers can’t win the title themselves. Thank you, Carter Large.
And, sometimes, you run into a good team on its home ice, the Crested Butte loss.
Navigating all this is not a small accomplishment and speaks well of this crew.
Odds are pretty good that we’re going to forget about the Kent Denver semifinal. Ask any Huskies soccer fan about the best game of the 2012 state run and it’s the shootout win over Evergreen, which was the quarterfinal, not the semis — Broomfield — or the finals — Palmer Ridge. I don’t remember whom Battle Mountain volleyball beat in 2006 in the final. I just remember the Sterling game, which happened during pool play, but was the de facto title game.
Battle Mountain won 2-0 and 5-4 during the Frozen Four. That says a lot in itself. Battle Mountain, in the past, could win the 5-4 playoff game, but not the 2-0 tilt. The usual 2-0 loss always seemed to happen because a bigger team — usually Kent Denver, which is why the alumni can’t stand the Sun Devils — would use its size just to beat the ever-loving snot out of the smaller, better-skating Huskies.
The hypothetical opposition — OK, Kent Denver — would just pound the Huskies, get them frustrated, take them out their game, score a stupid garbage goal and add an empty netter late.
Battle Mountain beat Kent Denver, 2-0, on two garbage goals on Wednesday and Crested Butte, 5-4, on another take-out-the-trash shot. Perhaps, you now see why I was obsessing on garbage goals this week.
The 2021 Huskies are certainly not the flashiest hockey team the school has produced. It is probably not the most talented team in Battle Mountain history — the offenses of the past win in a landslide — and it doesn’t matter one wit.
The best team — whether we’re talking the best team in a particular season or the best team in school/franchise history — doesn’t always win. The 2010 San Francisco Giants — apparently your sports editor is fond of San Francisco teams — were not better than some great orange and black squads that didn’t win the World Series. The 2010 Giants just had the best pitching in baseball and could eke out a little offense for a title.
Pitching, defense and an occasional hit is the perfect formula for baseball’s playoffs. So is defense and goaltending for hockey. For all the glorious offense and the great moments of the program, Huskies hockey never had the depth on defense — great top defenders, but not 6-8 deep — or the goaltending that this year’s team had and that is why the trophy is in residence in Eagle County.
One last thing
Talking to goalie Logan Gremmer after the 2-0 win over Kent, he said, “I’ll be honest. I don’t know if I’m going to sleep tonight.” We’re betting that Gremmer didn;t get the traditional, 8-hour block of sleep before Crested Butte and we’re assuming that the Huskies just didn’t get much shuteye after winning the title. Who would?
So, Go. To. Bed. Logan. Go to bed, everyone, current players, coaches, staff, administration, fans and alumni and sleep the sleep of champions.