Watch: Summit hockey falls in strong showing against undefeated Battle Mountain
Tigers coaches and players think the game was the best of the season
Wednesday night’s rivalry game between the Battle Mountain and Summit high school hockey teams at Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge certainly didn’t disappoint those looking for an exciting matchup.
The Huskies entered the contest with an unblemished 4-0-1 record, with a victory potentially propelling them to the top of the Colorado High School Activities Association 4A Mountain standings. The Tigers, on the other hand, resided at the bottom of the standings with a 1-3 record.
The disparity was not evident on the ice. The Tigers played their best game of the season, sticking with the Huskies deep into a third period before pulling their goalie and allowing an empty-net score late in a 6-4 loss.
Tigers head coach J.R. Engelbert said the Huskies are a team with depth throughout their lineup. With how many skilled players they have, he said it’s the kind of side where you don’t know if you’re going against the first or third line at any given moment. That said, Engelbert was proud of the attitude and effort the Tigers showed throughout the game as they matched the Huskies with 36 shots on goal each. The Tigers incurred five fewer penalty minutes, and Summit shot 50% (3 for 6) on power-play opportunities. To Engelbert, the game’s outcome truly came down to a bounce or two that could have gone in either direction.
Engelbert felt Summit’s much-improved performance from its most recent 9-3 loss to Crested Butte was thanks to more team play on the offensive end. That approach helped Summit spread the ice more and create additional scoring opportunities.
Tigers senior leaders Foster Krueger and Caleb Mallory said the team’s 2-3 forecheck system worked well all night, helping the Tigers get pucks deep in the Huskies zone as they sent two forwards low and kept a third forward high with two defensemen on point.
“Once we got the puck down low, we can set up and get some scoring chances, and they have a harder time getting back out of the zone, as well,” Mallory said.
After the Huskies opened up the scoring six minutes into the game, the Tigers equalized in the final minutes of the first period on a Graham Begley power-play goal assisted by Hank Kasch.
The Huskies then sapped a bit of energy from the Tigers on a short-handed goal three minutes into the second period before defenseman Zach Carleton scored on a power-play goal assisted by Mallory and Kasch seconds later. While the Tigers had some defensive breakdowns, mental errors and penalties throughout the night, they were able to recover and regroup consistently though the game, something Engelbert stressed to the squad all week in practice.
“Hockey is a game of read and reacting, so breakdowns and mistakes are going to happen. It’s just part of the game,” he said. “How we react after the fact — I think everyone reacted well tonight. Even though a few breakdowns happened, I don’t think it was the end of the world, and I’m very happy with the way everybody responded.”
Battle Mountain tacked on two more goals in the second period before Summit responded again with a Mallory power-play goal with one minute remaining in the second period, assisted by Ryley Cibula and Foster Krueger.
The goal came during a pivotal portion in the game when Summit seemed to have five minutes bridging the second and third periods of man-up play thanks to a Battle Mountain penalty. After the Mallory goal found the back of the net, Engelbert switched up his lines and sent a squad out there for the final minute of the man-up advantage with the express intent of knotting up the game at 5-5.
Shortly after that, Summit was given a two-minute minor penalty for a delay of game, credited to the bench, after the referees themselves had Summit wait on the side of the ice to wait for the skating surface to improve after the Zamboni went over it.
Mallory went to the penalty box for his side and said the situation affected the team’s mojo.
Engelbert was proud of how his team played in the sudden 4-on-4 situation. It wasn’t until 10 minutes into the final period that Battle Mountain scored on a power play to go up 5-3, but just 12 seconds later, Cibula scored an even-strength goal assisted by Blaze Ebbinghaus.
Down one, the Tigers fought for more but ultimately relinquished an empty-net goal after pulling freshman goaltender Finn Schroder (30 saves) for the 6-4 final scoreline.
With a home game versus Aspen (1-4-0) up next at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, Krueger thinks the team is on the cusp of bottling that winning formula. Beyond Aspen, he can’t wait to play Battle Mountain again Feb. 27 in Breckenridge.
“I’m a senior, and I’ve never beat Battle Mountain before,” he said. “I have one last chance to do it, and I really want to do it.”
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