ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Battle Mountain hockey finally has its title.The banner is going up in the gym in Eagle-Vail.Led by coach Jim Meehan, seven Huskies claimed not a state title, but a national one.Jason, Chase, Austin Chow, Eric Hansen, Max Miller, Brad Myers, Turi Olson and Nate Simon won the USA Hockey Inline National Championships in Alpharetta, Ga., just outside of Atlanta last week. “It’s pretty crazy,” Chow said. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. We the No. 1 team in America. That doesn’t happen to you everyday. After the tournament, was over we stopped and thought, ‘We’re No. 1 in the country.’ It’s pretty cool to think about.””They’re incredibly excited,” Meehan said. “They realized this is something you do only once in a lifetime. This is something they’re going to remember for the rest for their lives.”The Huskies, who won the high school varsity division, became the first local team to win a USA Hockey title since the U-12 Vail Hawks brought it home in 1997. Making the win all the more sweet is this group’s trials and travails during the winter on ice.For the last three seasons, the Huskies have compiled a 55-6-2, only to fall in the state finals in 2002 in double overtime, followed by two semifinal losses to Kent Denver in 2003 and 2004.Thus, now-Battle Mountain grads Chase, Hansen, Simon and Miller, who will be playing for the Pikes Peak Miners next season, finish their Huskies’ careers on a high note. And, for Chow, Myers and Olson, well, they hope it sets the tone for this winter.”Mentally, we were not going to let anything else happen,” Chow said. “We went down there with one purpose. We felt great for the seniors. That was their last stand. I’m glad we got it done. Hopefully, that turns the tide for us and is a good omen for this year.”
The shift from ice skates to inline blades, though it can be tough, was a natural one for the Huskies. Inline features four skaters as opposed to five in the ice hockey, meaning more space on the ice, er, Sportcourt. There’s no checking, which puts an emphasis on speed, passing and playmaking.In other words, while no one will ever doubt Chase’s or Simon’s ability to pound an opposing player into oblivion, we’re talking Battle Mountain hockey here.Battle Mountain’s major adjustment was on defense. “In the beginning of the tournament, we were having a hard time with teams setting picks and making a lot of switches,” Meehan said. “Our man-to-man defense was getting caught. We had to make a lot of adjustments, learning to stay with your man. Truly, it was the defense which won the championship for us.”And, don’t forget Mr. Hansen between the pipes. Being a goalie in the offensive world of inline is about as much fun as having 10 hours of root-canal surgery, but the Huskies keeper handled the task with aplomb. Facing a lighter puck – i.e. faster – Hansen made 110 saves on 135 shots and had a 3.57 goals-against average, all of which is very impressive in this high tempo game.”He just improved with every game,” Meehan said. “By the championship game, he was completely focused.”
By the way, did we mention that Battle Mountain only had six skaters, compared to most of the other teams who suited up 12-15? It didn’t seem to matter in pool play, where the Huskies went 2-1-1.Down 3-1 in the opener against Boone H.S. (Orlando, Fla.), Miller scored two goals late in the second half to earn the Huskies a point.The opener was notable for one fact. Chow did not have a point or an assist. That changed really quickly when the Huskies blasted South Forsythe (N.J.), 11-2. Chow had four goals and two assists as he began his offensive rampage. After the dust settled, Chow had 19 goals and 12 helpers for 31 points in the final six games of the Championships, earning himself a spot on the All-Tournament Team.”I had the flow that week. I felt good out there,” Chow said. “But, it’s a team game. That’s what it comes down to. You can’t do it yourself. There are four other people you have to lean on.”Against Murray, Utah, it was more of the same. Chow had five more goals in the 11-4 win. Chase and Simon had a playmakers, while Olson lit the lamp twice for the second time in as many games.The Huskies lost their only game in the pool finale to their hosts, Milton AAA, 6-3. Chow, Myers and Simon scored in the losing effort.
In the quarterfinals, a rematch with Boone, Battle Mountain put up a four-spot in the first half and held on for the 4-3 win. In a show of team depth, Myers was named the game’s MVP with a goal and an assist. Miller had added two and that Chow guy also scored.Atlee H.S. (Richmond, Va.) didn’t know what hit it when it took to the rink against Battle Mountain in the semis. By the time Atlee came to, the Huskies were up, 6-0. Chow had a playmaker and a hat trick. Myers had a five-point game, including a hat trick, and Simon had two of each as the Huskies were off to a rematch in the finals with Milton.This time was different for Battle Mountain, As opposed to all three of the Huskies’ playoff losses in the last three winters, Battle Mountain never trailed. Goals by Simon, Myers and Olson – all assisted by Chow – gave the Huskies a 3-1 lead at intermission.Milton rallied with two to tie in the second half. Meehan wisely called a timeout, and the Huskies regrouped. Chow scored twice in 29 seconds and then Miller and Chow finished the deal late.”These kids work hard. They skate hard. They deserve credit for all the hard work they’ve done over the years,” Meehan said. “They’ve won Triple Crown national championships before, but USA Hockey is the big show.”And, the Huskies finally have a big banner to show for it.Chris Freud is the sports editor of the Vail Daily, based in Vail, Colorado.. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614, or via firstname.lastname@example.org.