Tiger hockey poised for playoff run
summit daily news
BRECKENRIDGE – As the saying goes, some athletes wear their hearts on their sleeves. But for the Tiger hockey players, everything you need to know about them is, well, on top of their heads.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of comments,” senior goalie Andrew Dunlap said, brushing a hand across his recently crafted haircut – an all-business buzz job up top with a scraggly mullet hanging off the back.
Not every player on the Summit High hockey team is sporting a Tennessee waterfall heading into tonight’s playoff opener against Air Academy, but everyone at practice Thursday had some interesting hairdos, “exotic” cuts, as head coach Chris Ruhly put it.
“We try to do everything as a team. It was pretty much a group project,” Dunlap said.
And really, the collective hack jobs might say more about this Tiger team than any of their come-from-behind victories or dominating performances this season.
“Just the fact we got everyone to do it this year shows the difference (from teams in the past),” senior defenseman Kyle Metzger said. “We’re all friends and we all went over to (senior captain Dak Dice’s) house on Sunday and hung out, watched game film and did it.
“We’re a really close team, we’re like a family.”
The Tigers had a very interesting winter. They came into the season with a lot of uncertainty – the team was young with a short bench and lacking a standout offensive threat.
Still, a lot of those worries were erased with an impressive 4-1 start.
Then, the wheels fell off. Summit lost five of seven games and looked to be in rough shape to make the postseason.
“Obviously, you’re going to have some high points and some low points,” Ruhly said. “We definitely had those.”
The Tigers needed wins in at least five of their finals six games in order to make it to the playoffs – and they got them.
A 7-1 win over Columbine in Saturday’s regular-season finale got the Tigers into the top-eight in the Foothills Conference, the cut-off mark for the playoffs.
“That last game, we lose and we’re in ninth (and out of the playoffs). Instead, we end up as the sixth seed,” Ruhly said. “Three of those last four wins were third-period comebacks. Seeing that type of determination and that type of intensity in not letting up even if we were down … it was great how they battled back and got momentum and got some scoring.”
The Tigers now enter their game tonight as winners of five out of six and one of the hottest teams in the state.
Summit’s only played Air Academy one other time in program history. It was also in the first round of the state playoffs, and the Tigers won on their way to making the Frozen Four.
“Hopefully, history can repeat itself,” Ruhly said, “but they’re the No. 3 seed and finished third in the (Peak) conference for a reason. We can’t take them lightly.”
No player on Summit’s roster has ever won a playoff game. The Tigers have been ousted in the first round of the postseason each of the last three years.
“We want to break that trend and make the Frozen Four again,” Metzger said.
To do so, Ruhly said the Tigers need more of the play they had at the end of the year, rather than the stagnant struggles from the middle.
“We had some struggles, but we turned it around and got some scoring, not just from one or two guys, but from a whole lot of people. Our defense stepped it up, too,” the coach said.
“We’re fully healthy now, and we feel confident. We might be one of the hottest teams coming in, but we can’t relax. We need to continue to play our style of hockey.”
Their style of play is predicated on working as one, especially to pick up the scoring load. Summit has 14 players who’ve scored goals this season, eight that have notched five or more.
And seeing as they all look a little more alike now, their hoping the haircuts help to inspire.
“There’s more on the line because all our hair’s gone,” Dice said.
Tonight’s game is slated for a 6 start at The Edge Ice Arena in Denver.
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