Breckenridge Vipers hockey hopeful for victories ahead of home stretch
Just about halfway through their 2018-19 season, it’s time for the Breckenridge Vipers to hit the reset button.
The good news is the Vipers responded in their last game, out on the road against their bitter rival the Vail Yeti. They lost a close, hard-fought game by the score of 3-2. The bad news is the Vipers had that bounce-back performance after the Yeti blanked the Vipers 11-0 in the previous day’s game.
Despite the inconsistency, Vipers goaltender J.R. Engelbert is hopeful the Vipers will rebound over a two-month stretch that closes the season with seven home games at Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge.
“I think that was a low point and also it was a good experience for our team very much in the long run,” Engelbert said of the back-to-back road losses to Vail. “We came back Saturday night, and even though we lost the game 3-2, it was a good game. We played the style of hockey we needed to play. And that adversity of the first game will be huge for us moving forward over these next seven games as we hope to make the playoffs. It was one of those team rallying moments when everybody had to look in the mirror and say, ‘I can be better. We can be better.’”
The Vipers (4-5) are a professional hockey team that competes in the Mountain West Hockey League, which is comprised of high-level former college and professional players.
Through the first seven games of the season, the Vipers are led in goal scoring by forward Rick Batenburg, who has found the back of the net 11 times and has assisted on eight goals this season for a total of 18 points. Defenseman Derek Scanlon is leading the attack from the defensive group with 13 points on the season, while Engelbert sports a 4-2 record as the Vipers’ main netminder.
Looking ahead, the Vipers are hopeful that a new addition in decade-long Breckenridge resident Pete Payette will help the team from an offensive standpoint. Engelbert said the Minnesota-native has provided an ideal role on the team after he joined the squad in December.
Additionally, the Vipers have benefited from the improved play of another Summit County local in Luke Noble. The former Breckenridge Bolts junior-level player has scored four goals on the season and is improving each game. The Vipers have also received an energetic spark throughout the season from forward Chad Helfer of Eagle.
“He has a willingness to do anything for the team and his teammates,” Engelbert said.
The Vipers will return to home ice for the first time since mid-December on Saturday at 7:45 p.m., at Stephen C. West Ice Arena, when they take on Pikes Peak. The next home game is slated for Feb. 9 and will be the squad’s first chance at redemption in the Viper Pit versus Vail. Another match with Pikes Peak follows on Feb. 16 before the final game versus Vail of the regular season, on March 2. The Vipers’ 2018-19 home slate will round out against the Denver Leafs on March 16 followed by back-to-back home games versus San Diego on March 22 and 23.
“Playoff picture-wise, we’re going to have to play some good hockey,” Engelbert said. “We’ll have to win probably five or six of those games to make that run.”
At their remaining home games, the Vipers will raffle off jerseys and other prizes in addition to serving local beer. To purchase tickets visit Breckenridge.mwhl.net/shop. For more information on the Vipers, visit Facebook.com/BreckVipersHockey.
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