Summit High School hockey confident ahead of hosting rival Battle Mountain
Tigers swim and dive takes 7th at conference championship
BRECKENRIDGE — It’s a balance of having confidence but not being too overconfident ahead of the Summit High School hockey team’s home game at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday versus rival Battle Mountain at Stephen C. West Ice Arena.
The Tigers enter the contest after having looked really strong — especially on their power-play offense — in their 7-4 win Saturday night in Aspen. All year long, Tigers head coach Joey Otsuka has said that when Summit can excel in assistant coach Wren Arbuthnot’s high-risk, high-reward offensive power-play system, it can be one of the best teams in school history.
After the win over Aspen, in which the Tigers were 4-for-5 on power plays, Otsuka said Summit now ranks second in the state in power-play offense percentage. That’s a stark improvement since the holiday break, when Otsuka was not pleased with the team’s percentage on the power play.
The game against Aspen was the latest example of Summit having the skill and strategy to be capable of playing with the very best sides in the state. In several recent games, teams have approached playing Summit with a high level of physicality. In those games, including against the Skiers on Saturday, the Tigers have responded by moving skaters and the puck to earn man-up advantages.
And once earned, Summit has proven consistent at scoring. The pair of power-play goals in the first period from Zach Carleton and Jacob Mallory was the latest example of that. Those goals late in the first period followed a pair of even-strength goals from Finn Theriault and Max Bonenberger that gave the Tigers a commanding 4-1 lead entering the second period.
Otsuka said Saturday’s offensive explosion in the first period was the latest example that this veteran-heavy team continues to grow late into the season. All year, Summit has struggled scoring in the first period, ranked in the bottom five in the state in first-period goal differential, the coach said.
Over the weekend, Heritage High topped previously undefeated Fort Collins, one of the top teams in Colorado if not the best. The Tigers lost to Heritage earlier in the season in a competitive game. Reflecting on that match, Otsuka said the Summit squad knows Heritage is a team it could compete with. After the win over Aspen, hearing the news of Heritage’s win was further validation for the Tigers that they are one of the best teams in program history heading into the final month of the season and that they can contend with the best in Colorado.
“It shouldn’t be in our players’ heads that there is a question of how good this team is,” Otsuka said Tuesday. “I think a lot of the leadership is starting to realize, ‘Oh man, we are a good hockey team.’ But we need to bring it and have more ownership of the situation, and that’s a good thing. It’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and to walk that line with a skilled team, you have to really balance yourself. You’re not taking anyone too lightly. And you’re also putting in the work that’s needed during practice. We had a really good practice (Monday), and it’s evident in all of the drills and conditioning we are doing.”
Dec. 7: at Heritage, L, 8-2
Dec. 11: vs. Steamboat Springs, W, 6-3
Dec. 14: at Coronado, W, 6-2
Dec. 18: at Battle Mountain, L, 4-1
Dec. 21: vs. Glenwood Springs, W, 3-2
Jan. 4: at Mullen, L, 2-5
Jan. 10: vs. Crested Butte, W, 5-1
Jan. 11: vs. Crested Butte, W, 6-3
Jan. 17: at Palmer, W, 6-0
Jan. 18: vs. Aspen, W, 6-2
Jan. 25: Chaparral, 5 p.m.
Jan. 31: at Steamboat Springs, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7: at Glenwood Springs, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 8: at Aspen, 6:15 p.m.
Feb. 12: vs. Battle Mountain, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 14: at Liberty, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 15: vs. Woodland Park, 3 p.m.
Feb. 22: vs. Standley Lake, 6 p.m.
With their record standing at 10-4 in a 19-game campaign, right now there is a short-term and long-term element to Summit’s season. In the short term, they’ll get the chance Wednesday to defeat their talented arch-rival Battle Mountain after the Huskies bested the Tigers 4-1 in mid-December. A win over Battle Mountain would help Summit take another step toward an unprecedented Peak Conference championship. As of Tuesday, Summit had a three-point lead in the conference standings ahead of Glenwood, a team Summit was supposed to play Friday before extreme weather forced a postponement, with the makeup date still up in the air.
“This is the biggest game of the season,” Otsuka said about hosting the Huskies. “Now that we’ve had some success, some tough tests, we are a lot more confident than when played them earlier in the season, and I think that’s really going to show Wednesday.”
As for the long term, with Summit currently ranked 11th in the state, there remains the real possibility that the Tigers will host a state tournament game for the first time in program history. Otsuka said the way the 24-team, five-round state tournament works is the top eight teams get byes before hosting second-round games.
That means seeds nine through 16 host first-round games. If Summit can remain in that group, Otsuka said Tuesday, Feb. 25, would be the fateful night for the thrills of a win-or-go-home playoff at Stephen C. West.
Swimming and diving
The Summit High School swimming and diving team finished in seventh place of 11 teams at Saturday’s Western Slope Conference Meet in Grand Junction with 131 points. The Tigers performed best in the 200-medley relay and the 200-freestyle relay.
In the 200-meter freestyle relay, the Tigers foursome of Jasmine Laube, Taylor Lee and Abby and Hannah Anderson (01:52.25) finished sixth with a time of one minute and 52.25 seconds.
In the 200-meter medley relay, the Tigers finished in fifth place with a time of 2:01.49 swam by Laube in the backstroke (30.11), Hannah Anderson in the freestyle (27.56), Molly Nikkel (34.78) in the breaststroke and Logan Simson in the butterfly (29.04).
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