Summit High hockey celebrates seniors in home win over Woodland Park |

Summit High hockey celebrates seniors in home win over Woodland Park

Tigers take on Glenwood Tuesday for conference title

Senior Nick Davis is introduced for the Summit Tigers as they take on the Woodland Park Panthers in varsity hockey on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge.
Liz Copan /

BRECKENRIDGE — Going into back-to-back games Friday and Saturday night, the Summit High School varsity hockey team knew they were heavy favorites at Liberty and home against Woodland Park if they played to their capabilities. A combined scoreline between the two eventual wins of 20-3 spoke to that, the Tigers topped the Lancers 12-2 on the road Friday night and the Panthers 8-1 at home at Stephen C. West Ice Arena Saturday afternoon.

But Friday and Saturday night’s contests were about much more than Summit improving their record to 12-5 en route to potentially hosting a state playoff game later this month for the first time in program history.

It was about celebrating the special group of nine seniors who have put the Tigers in a position to win a Peak Conference championship on Tuesday at Glenwood Springs. And it was about celebrating the parents and Summit Youth Hockey coaches who cultivated the on-ice skills and off-ice specialness of this tight-knit group.

“Senior night is a great thing for the parents,” Head coach Joey Otsuka said. “The amount of sacrificing every single hockey parent makes is substantial compared to regular field sports. That was the number one message every senior had, was thanking their parents, thanking the coaches they had along the way, and it’s a testament to how good Summit Youth Hockey is. Chris Miller, the director, he runs a good organization, runs a tight ship. Wren (Arbuthnot) too, they do such a good job at lower ages.”

Otsuka, the assistant Arbuthnot, and the rest of the Tigers coaching staff made it a point Saturday to play each and every senior, and to have each and every senior who was not a goaltender register a goal or assist. That didn’t fully come to fruition, but senior reserve goaltender Shannon O’Brien started the game in net and registered a win as Summit scored six first-period goals, while O’Brien turned around a pair of Panthers shots to pick up the win.

In the first period, junior Ryley Cibula got the party started with an even-strength goal at the 4:40 mark, assisted by senior captain Isaac Eland and junior Jack Sherlock. Max Bonenberger then scored two minutes later assisted by Summit senior Sophia Fondl, who has come back to contribute to the team after suffering an ACL tear at the end of last season. The night prior against Liberty, Fondl scored an impressive goal in the Tiger win.

“It was super cool,” Bonenberger said. “She was right in front of a defender, then got a pass and then she was facing our net then spun and scored in the bottom left corner.”

During Saturday’s win in the first period, the Tigers grabbed three more goals from seniors over the next six minutes, including a tally for Eland, a goal for defenseman Rudy Burki and another tally by Bonenberger.

“I picked the puck up in the defensive zone and I just saw a lane,” Burki said of his goal. “So I went and the rest is history, I guess.”

The junior Sherlock tacked on a final goal at the end of the period before Stephen C. West Ice Arena hosted the Tigers’ senior night festivities. After a red carpet was rolled out onto the ice, each senior was joined by their mother at center ice where they gave their parent flowers. Summit’s seniors this year include the captain Eland, captain and goaltender Jake Mallory, captain Nick Davis, Bonenberger, Fondl, Taylor Ash, Burki, Marco Vogelbacher and O’Brien.

In the second period, Vogelbacher manned the net for Summit and stopped two shots. Tigers freshman Finn Theriault scored the lone goal in the second period, assisted by Eli Ash at the 14:11 mark.

In the third period, Summit’s starter goalie Mallory manned the net, and stopped four of five shots. The lone third period goal for the Tigers came in the final seconds of regulation when Bonenberger received a pass from Eland next to net and knocked it home for the hat trick.

Speaking after the game, Otsuka said Summit treated the action in a way where if a player had already scored or registered an assist, they were cycled out to make room for another senior to reach the score sheet. Even on a night where the coaching staff and players embraced this strategy, it was impossible for Woodland Park to keep Bonenberger from getting a hat trick. Otsuka had to smile after the game at that fact — Bonenberger has proven to be one of the state’s best players this year using his always-cool mentality and quick-as-lightning speed and skills to lead Summit with 21 goals on the season.

“When he gets on the ice, he does what he needs to do every shift and every practice,” Burki said, speaking of Bonenberger. “His focus on and off the ice is unmatched.”

Next up, Summit will travel on Tuesday night to play Glenwood Springs in a postponed game that effectively serves as the conference championship. After the weekend celebration for the seniors, Burki says it’ll take physicality and selflessness for Summit to win.

“Definitely sacrifice,” Burki said. “It’s going to take a lot of focus, a lot of grit, winning battles — every 50-50 battle has to be won.”

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