Winter sports prep previews: Wilson takes over for Battle Mountain hockey
Huskies are coming off of a 14-7 record and state semifinal loss in 2021-2022
Battle Mountain might have a new head coach, but its winning tradition isn’t expected to go anywhere.
“The Battle Mountain High School ice hockey teams (varsity and junior varsity) are hopeful for a competitive and entertaining season for our community,” new head coach George Wilson stated in an email in advance of the 2022-23 campaign. “We are focused on continuing the winning tradition since I started with the team in 2018.”
Wilson takes over for Derek Byron, who led the Huskies to a 9-1 Mountain League mark and 14-7 overall record last season. The No. 2-seeded Huskies eventually fell in the 4A state semifinal 3-1 to No. 3 Colorado Academy. In 2021, Byron guided the Huskies to their first state title with a 5-4 overtime win over Crested Butte. For the curious stat junkies out there, Battle Mountain has also lost two state title games (2002 and 2008) in its history.
Wilson said the team’s goal heading into 2022-2023 is to defend the league title and return to the state frozen four. They’ll have to do so without graduated captain center Kyle Parliament, and assistant captains, defenseman Carter Large and goalie Logan Gremmer. Wilson said the returners are a talented bunch, however, starting with first-line center Nate Bishop.
“He will play a key role in our power play,” Wilson stated. “Nate has been on the varsity team and grown into a natural leader.” Providing support for Bishop will be assistant captain Declan Kelly. “His speed and hockey intelligence will be a strong impact for the team,” Wilson noted of the junior center.
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Though he’s a defenseman, Wilson described Scott Suhadolink as someone who “can rush into the offensive zone and set up opportunities for the team.” Alongside Suhadolink is assistant captain Ollie Grems.
“He’s a shutdown defenseman that will play a large role in keeping opponents out of our defensive zone,” Wilson said of the senior. “He is an intelligent player that knows how to break the puck out and find opportunities to create offense.”
Veteran Kaia Borski will take over Gremmer in the net. Wilson said Borski has developed into a strong player over her three years on the team. “She is a game-changer and we have a lot of confidence playing in front of her,” the coach stated.
Over the off-season, Wilson said juniors Colin Spaeth and Trevyn Delong made strides and could be poised for breakout seasons.
“He is a big and strong presence on the ice; he’s improved his overall speed and scoring,” the coach said of Delong. Of Spaeth, Wilson added, “(He) has taken his game to the next level. He has improved his speed and physical play (and) that will contribute a lot to the team.”
Talent and skill-development are just part of the equation, though. As Wilson takes the reins, he knows overall environment is important, too.
“The Battle Mountain ice hockey team is to have a positive team culture with strong values,” he said. “Everyone is on board with developing a supportive team that is willing to help each other along with helping the junior varsity team develop for future teams.”
In order to reach the state semifinals — or further — the Huskies know they’ll need continued defensive growth as they learn and implement a new system designed to limit shots in front of Borski. Offensively, Wilson expects to see more improvement in stretching the ice and finding speed through the neutral zone.
“Our creative play in the offensive zone and power play will produce scoring opportunities and a lot of pressure on our opponents,” he said.
Senior-heavy Steamboat Springs, led by Andrew Kempers, Landon Ripley and Landon Smith, appear to be early league favorites; the Sailor’s games (Jan. 28 and Feb. 4) have been proverbially circled on the Battle Mountain athletes’ calendars. Another anticipated battle will be against rival Crested Butte. Wilson said everyone is also looking forward to a new opponent this season in Durango, a game that is yet to be scheduled.
“Glenwood Springs and Summit appear to also be strong this season,” the coach added. “It will be a battle for the Mountain 4A title.”
Wilson concluded by saying, “The coaching staff is excited to get the season started and the players will be ready to get going the first weekend in December.”