Vail Mountain beats Battle Mountain, 9-5
Gore Rangers take control of title chase
EAST VAIL — The road to the Western Conference championship goes through the Vail Mountain School after the Gore Rangers knocked off Battle Mountain, 9-5, on Tuesday in the first of two heavily anticipated showdowns between the two schools.
“It’s a big win,” the Gore Rangers’ Cole Pattison said. “It was a rivalry game. We took the W. I think we’re the best in the league.”
The standings agree with Pattison for now. Vail Mountain sits atop the West with a 6-1 record, followed by both Battle Mountain and Steamboat Springs at 4-2 and Eagle Valley at 3-2. Not that anyone’s interested, but VMS and Battle Mountain meet again on June 9 in Edwards.
“I was looking forward to this game all season,” VMS senior Sebastian Kohlhofer said.“This is my favorite game of the season. The crowd really hypes us up. It’s super-sick.”
The first portion of the game happened before the game when numerous players from both sides had their sticks checked. Consider that a party favor from last week’s Eagle Valley-VMS game, when the Gore Rangers’ Becker Dienst got tagged with a key illegal stick penalty.
Dienst’s stick was fine, as was everyone else’s, and No. 3 had a boring hat trick of a day, just like he likes it.
Speaking of the No. 3, that’s how many goals VMS had during the first 12 minutes and that was the ball game in many respects. Mackay Pattison, Kohlhofer and Mason Geller lit the lamp during the first quarter.
“I think it comes from a focus in warm-up,” VMS coach Anders Fogel said. “We do the same thing every time for each game. The kids pick the music and they get excited and ready for the game.”
Keep the tunes coming, VMS.
To Battle Mountain’s credit, they worked their offense, were patient and got good looks. There was absolutely no quit from the boys in black. The Huskies made it a game, but it always felt like they were running in quicksand because being down 3-0 to a defense that features VMS keeper Matthew Gay is a lot different than being down to a team with an average keeper.
Matthew Gay was the difference maker. Jakub “Cuba” Pecinka and Quinn Peterson were also superb for the Huskies.
“He’s an awesome goalie,” VMS coach Anders Fogel said of Gay. “ He’s an awesome goal-stopper back there and we just want him to keep getting better.”
Unsung hero of the game
Carter Large, Vail Mountain. The junnior won the faceoffs, including a stretch of 6-for-8 in the first half. His efforts helped VMS build and maintain the lead.
Whistles and wild cards
Blu Barnett and Thomas Dekanich helped Battle Mountain back into the game during the second quarter. By the third, it was a ball game with VMS leading 5-4 after more scores from Barnett and Cal Hill.
It almost seemed like Battle Mountain poked the bear by scoring those goals. Dienst scored two goals in 45 seconds to restore order.
One of VMS’s halftime talking points was, “No penalties.” The thinking was the only way Battle Mountain could get back into the game was the whistle. So naturally, after VMS restored order with a 7-4 lead, both Dienst and Geller went into the box simultaneously.
Gore Rangers fans can laugh about this now, but it is a teaching opportunity.
“It was an emotional game for sure,” Fogel said. “We had to come together. Our team theme is together. We break down every huddle with it. We end every practice with it. If we have rough times, we get through it.”
Twelve teams make the playoffs this year, and six of those will be conference champions. VMS has one of those six spots now, but also consider that wild cards, from a combination of rating-percentage index, maxpreps.com rankings and the CHSAA Coaches’ Poll, will make up the other six teams.
Yes, whether it’s called the Western Conference in lacrosse or the Slope in other sports, fans do assume the region will get jobbed. That said, so far with this trinity of indices, Western Slope teams have done well by these formulas.
Please remember how Battle Mountain hockey seemed unlikely to make the playoffs, but got a wild card with the exact same formula, and it seemed to work out for them. Eagle Valley, Vail Mountain and Vail Christian volleyball also got great spots in the postseason through these calculations.
So it’s not guaranteed, but it’s still pretty likely the West gets another playoff spot, which keeps the door open for Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Steamboat (don’t forget about them), were the standings to hold.
That said, there’s plenty more to go after everyone takes a break for graduation/Memorial Day Weekend. Battle Mountain’s back in action on June 1 against Summit, while VMS is off until June 4, when it hosts Steamboat.