Vail Mountain School boys lacrosse avenges season-opening loss to Eagle Valley with 12-4 victory
Gore Rangers improve to 4-2 behind the stellar play of goalie Alex Krupka
The Vail Mountain School boys lacrosse team lost 9-7 to Eagle Valley on March 10. The difference between that squad and the one which dominated the Devils 12-4 Tuesday night was about as stark of a contrast as the snowy weather greeting players to start the game and the sunny skies under which it ended.
“We’re growing,” head coach Stephen Michel summarized regarding the transformation. “We’re working together as a unit.”
“This is a huge win,” added rookie goalie Alex Krupka, who stood on his head for the second game in a row. “You know we really wanted that revenge and we’re just getting better from here on out.”
The Alpine ski star made several stunning saves, avenging his debut performance to the delight of the Gore Ranger faithful who braved the cold, blustery evening.
“For that first Eagle Valley game, we had four practices, I had been in the net four times, so I had, like, no experience,” he said. “Our clear wasn’t working well. We practiced it, have gained experience and are just getting better every day.”
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Krupka did let in the first goal of the game — a strike from Peter Boyd with 5:44 left in the first quarter – but was lights out the rest of the way. Antsy and athletic, he appeared caged in by the cage, charging out on his own to lead the clear on a few occasions.
“I’m not used to standing there the whole game so whenever I get the chance, I just want to run,” he said.
Erik Jaerbyn got Vail Mountain on the board, working it in close as his teammates counted down before finding the back of the net with just three ticks left. Jaerbyn catalyzed the Gore Ranger offense in the second, too.
Three minutes in, Mason Geller lofted a pass from directly behind the net to Jaerbyn, posted up right in front. The junior high-sticked a six-yard touch shot for the 2-1 lead. Geller — who finished with a goal and two assists — kept the playmaking going thirty seconds later, scooping up a failed Eagle Valley reversal to goalie Kyle Woodworth right in front of the net. Geller flung it back to Max Vidal for the first of his game-high four goals.
“He’s one of our senior leaders,” Michel said of Vidal.
It was the Vidal brothers show the rest of the half, as Max scored again with 1:29 to go before little brother Charlie ricocheted one off the post in the final minute for the 5-1 lead.
“I think we just have some major key players stepping up in big-time parts,” Charlie said when asked about how his team has improved despite graduating a slew of starters last year. Max credited Michel for working everyone into the system. “He really brought us together and helped the newer kids step up and put up some points,” he added.
With flakes falling on the already slick field, the Devils struggled to move the ball and habitually turned it over trying to get into their offense. Early in the third, leading scorer Julius Petersen had a point-blank look just nip the post and bounce out. Seconds later, Boyd wound up for a side shot that Krupka, of course, saved. The midfielder got a second look a moment after and converted on the 20-yard rocket to make it 5-2.
The speedy Boyd, who exerted considerable energy searching for a chink in Krupka’s armor, had a break down the sideline with 6:08 to go in the period. After delivering a dime on the money to Petersen, streaking into the middle, the seemingly surefire goal was blocked away yet again by Krupka.
“He had an amazing game,” Charlie Vidal said of his goalie, a former defenseman. After being cleared from an injury to play goalie, Krupka offered to move to the position to help the team.
“He said, ‘I’d love to play defense, but if the team needs a goalie, I’m going to step in,'” Michel said. “He’s a great teammate.”
If the Devils weren’t boiled over in frustration from the goalie’s prowess, Jay McCormack provided another point of contention on the draws.
“He’s been dominant,” Michel said of the junior. “I think he’s been winning 75 to 80 percent of the face-offs. It’s make-it-take-it; you know, we score and we know we’re getting the ball back.”
A three-goal VMS third-quarter, punctuated by a long-pole goal from Nolan Kim, appeared to seal the Devils’ fate. The real nail in the coffin came late in the fourth, however, when Max Vidal received a pass from his brother sliding across the front of the net and converted on a pretty behind-the-back score for the 12-4 final.
“I was just kind of getting pushed so I just dove and flung it,” the elder Vidal said.
“I told him, next time tell me and I’ll throw the assist BTB, too,” his brother added. “It was a great goal.”
“He’s successful because he gets to the front of the cage all the time,” Michel commented. “If he’s bailing out on the sides, he can’t take that shot. But he gets to the middle and he can stick that.”
With the win, the Gore Rangers improved to 4-2 overall and 4-2 in the 4A Western Slope, where they still trail Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs and Aspen. They host the Demons on Friday and the Sailors next Tuesday. The Devils dropped to 4-3 overall and 3-3 in league play.
“Huge momentum shift for the season,” said Max Vidal. “It’s good to come off a Battle Mountain dub and then just crush Eagle Valley.”
“I think losing to them the first time kind of brought the team’s morale down, first game of the season,” said Charlie Vidal, who would finish with three goals. “But now that we had an amazing win, great team performance, we’re able to keep the momentum going into our upcoming games, which are tough.”