Tigers come oh-so-close to enormous upset | SummitDaily.com

Tigers come oh-so-close to enormous upset

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

BRECKENRIDGE ” It’s hard to be more proud of a losing effort than that which the Summit High School hockey team put forth on Wednesday night. It’s also hard to be more heartbroken after such an effort comes up so tantalizingly short.

The Tigers gave the No. 1 team in the state, Ralston Valley, quite a scare at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena thanks to a second period nobody will soon forget. But after scoring five straight goals ” on eight shots ” to erase a 4-0 deficit, Summit couldn’t hold on as the Mustangs scored the game’s final two tallies, including the game-winner in sudden-death overtime, to win 6-5.

“There are no good losses at this stage of the season,” SHS coach Bryan Smith said, “but I guess I’ll take that one as a good loss. But it’s also just an extra disappointing loss, just because they again wore their hearts on their sleeves. They wore that team out.”

Summit took a 5-4 lead into the final period in front of an energized, almost disbelieving crowd. It looked like the Tigers were going to hold on, too, as goalie Nick Springer stuffed numerous Mustang chances early in the final period.

However, a loose puck that was not intended to be a shot slipped by Springer with 9:36 to play, paving the way for overtime. In that extra period, Summit committed two costly penalties and was forced to play down a man for much of the 8-minute period. Ralston took advantage, as good teams tend to do, and buried the game-winner with 3:42 to go, leaving Summit’s rink as silent as a forest.

“Bittersweet,” SHS co-captain Jimmy Keeling described the loss. “It just goes to show if we come out and play our Tiger hockey, we can skate with any team in the state.”

“They dominated the best team in the state for 15 minutes,” Smith said. “It was definitely the best period of hockey I’ve ever seen ’em play.”

Summit’s playoff hopes are now hanging in the balance as the Tigers, 6-11 overall and 4-4 in the Foothills League, look forward to their final three games of the season, all against tough teams.

If they play like they did while falling behind 4-0, they could be in trouble. However, if they play like they did during that magical second-period stretch, they could again be a dark horse to make some noise come postseason time, as they did last year in advancing to the Frozen Four with a losing record.

Tommy Moles opened Summit’s scoring on Wednesday, and was followed soon after by Braxton Campbell, who took a beautiful pass at full speed from Scott Noble before burying a shot with a sweet move at the net.

Matt Stoffel punched home a loose puck a minute later, then, after a huge hit by Michael Dudick further excited the home team’s rooters, Keeling scored the first of two straight goals from the point. Keeling’s second tally ” only his third of the year ” came off a slapper that slipped through the screened Ralston goalie’s legs with 33 seconds to go in the period.

“Down 4-0, it’s hard not to get down on yourself,” Keeling said, “but you don’t want to get blown out in front of your home crowd.”

That much was obvious, even to the Mustangs’ bench.

“It was a little difficult to watch,” said Ralston Valley coach John McKibbon, who has led his first-year high school squad ” comprised of many of Colorado’s top club players ” to a 12-1-2 record (7-0-1 Foothills). Still, McKibbon added of the Tigers, “Give them credit, they never stopped working.”

“It was a battle well fought,” Smith said. “We just need to fight it for three periods.”

Jeff Montepare and Noble finished with two assists apiece, while James Lowrey, Max O’Neill, Stoffel and Dudick each added one.

Summit next plays at Aspen on Friday night.

Devon O’Neil can be contacted at doneil@summitdaily.com, or (970) 668-4633.

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