Watch: Summit hockey plays best game of season in 2-1 loss to Battle Mountain
In rivalry game, Tigers nearly upset league-leading Huskies
Even in a loss, Summit High School varsity hockey head coach JR Engelbert was proud of his Tigers team after falling short, 2-1, on home ice versus rival Battle Mountain on Saturday night.
“That was easily the best game we’ve played start to finish,” Engelbert said. “The pace was good, the intensity was good. Our guys came out to play the entire game focused, and it was good to see everybody working together tonight. Unfortunately, we came up a shot short.”
After the Tigers lost, 6-4, to the Huskies at Stephen C. West Ice Arena earlier in the season, senior captain defenseman Foster Krueger said it was on his hockey bucket list to defeat the Huskies for the first time in his career. Krueger wasn’t able to accomplish that goal, but it wasn’t without trying in the waning seconds Saturday.
Krueger from distance unfurled several shots on net forcing saves from Husky netminder Logan Gremmer as the clock crept down to zeros. In the end, after the Tigers pulled freshman goaltender Finn Schroder from net, Summit couldn’t put the puck beyond the Huskies crease. Summit’s record dropped to 1-8 on the COVID-19-shortened season while Battle Mountain improved to 8-1-1.
On paper, those records suggest the Huskies should have wiped the ice with the Tigers on Saturday. But as they say in rivalry games, throw the records out the window. The Tigers mustered that energy and momentum from the outset in a game Engelbert felt Summit controlled, anchored by Schroder’s 27 stops on 29 Huskies shot attempts in net.
“That was probably his strongest game of the season for sure,” the coach said about the freshman netminder. “He made a couple of routine, but timely, saves in the third period that really helped us out. And that kept that momentum kind of going in our favor. That was a game where the momentum … I feel Summit carried for most of the game.”
The Tigers might have carried the momentum, but the Huskies — ranked as one of the top 4A teams in the state and leading the 4A Mountain League standings — hammered home the first goal of the game for a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first period. It came on a Carter Large assist to Jensen Rawlings in an even-strength situation.
The goal was a tough one for the Tigers to swallow, as moments prior the Tigers had survived not two, not five, but seven minutes of man-down hockey. The unenviable defensive situation was due to a slashing penalty to Ryley Cibula at the 7:25 mark of the opening period and then a controversial five-minute major assessed to Blaze Ebbinghaus that was handed out just seven seconds after Summit had survived Cibula’s two minutes in the sin bin without relenting a goal. So the Tigers stared quite the mental challenge down, knowing Battle Mountain had another five minutes — seven minutes in total — to rack up as many goals as they could.
In the end, Summit’s defense and Schroder didn’t relent one as Battle Mountain outshot the Tigers 13-6 thanks to all those power-play minutes.
“Anytime you can kill a penalty, it’s going to help the momentum on your team,” Engelbert said. “To kill a five-minute major on top of that, that was a huge confidence boost. And while we were on the kill, I feel like we still dominated that play. I was really happy with that, and I think that carried throughout the game.”
From there on out in the second and third periods, Summit outshot league-leader Battle Mountain, 20-18, including a strong second period when the Tigers outshot the Huskies, 14-6. All those shots included an even-strength goal by Cibula assisted by Ebbinghaus to tie the game at 1-1 6:23 into the second period. The goal came in a helter-skelter situation, as the puck pinballed around the Huskies crease before Cibula poled it through.
Cibula was one of a handful of players Engelbert said really shined on a night when everyone played well. That group included defenseman-turned-forward Cassius Bradford, a versatile force for Summit, and Copper Pederson. Engelbert and the Tigers coaches have enlisted Bradford to play all over the ice. He’d been a defenseman throughout the season until Thursday, when Summit needed him to move around positionally in a loss to Glenwood Springs.
“Another game in a row, Cassius Bradford played great,” Engelbert said. “The last couple of games, he’s been a spark plug-in wherever we put him. He’s been a utility guy. Tonight, he was forward and then finished the game on D because we were really short on defense. And I thought Cooper and Ryley had their better games of the season. Honestly, this was the strongest everyone has played individually and as a team this year.”
Overall, Engelbert felt his side moved the puck well, enabling the Tigers to attack out of their zone well as a team. While doing so, the Tigers skaters spread the ice and didn’t get jammed up among one another while creating time and space for players moving up the ice. The coach said the players realizing the puck moves faster than their skates helped them to build momentum against the league stalwart from Battle Mountain.
In the end, though, an even-strength Battle Mountain goal from Rawlings, again assisted by Large, ultimately won the Huskies the game at the 12:09 mark of the final period.
Summit is next scheduled to play Friday at Glenwood Springs (4-4-1). The Tigers’ final home game of the season, senior night at Stephen C. West Ice Arena, will come at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, against the only team Summit has defeated thus far: Steamboat Springs (3-5-0).
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