TELLURIDE – Telluride’s Midgets hockey team felt the sharp sting of defeat last Saturday, falling hard at home to a burly Gunnison squad.
“We’re capable of playing better than we did, but I don’t think we stood a chance against that team,” Midgets coach Kevin Swain said following his team’s back-to-back losses on Saturday, 10-0 and 14-1.
With explosive skating and volatile aggression, the Gunnison squad that skated onto the Hanley Rink ice Saturday afternoon proved to be too much for the Telluride team to handle. In addition to an unremitting bombardment on the Telluride net, Gunnison’s thick-shouldered players also displayed a proclivity toward throwing their weight around. When players slammed against the boards during many fierce fights for the puck, even the spectators felt it. But the spectators were also witness to Telluride’s staunch determination to keep their heads up and their skates beneath them despite the pounding playing out on their home rink.
“They didn’t quit,” said Swain. “They were playing against a very physical team and they held their own. I was proud of them – they did not back down and took it to Gunnison as best as they could.”
Saturday’s late game showcased diligent work by Telluride’s defense, with Ivan Zeller doing his best to keep the puck in play for Telluride while Willie Hess gave Gunnison players a taste of their own hard-hitting medicine. Doug Smith and Max Walker-Silverman fought their way up the rink, struggling against the at times crushing tides of Gunnison’s solid defense.
The single spark ignited by Telluride’s offense emerged in the second period. After Gunnison scored their eighth goal of the night, Sam Engbring won the puck at the center ice and managed to make it through Gunnison’s previously impenetrable defensive lines to slap a quick shot into the net. The mid-period goal was Telluride’s only goal of the weekend, and provided the team with a too-short reprieve against the unrelenting Gunnison onslaught.
Before this weekend’s losses, Telluride’s record stood at an even 3-3. Swain said that despite the lopsided scores on Saturday, his players remained upbeat, and will take the lessons learned against Gunnison with them on the road for the next two weekends’ games.
“I’m optimistic because they didn’t quit, they kept getting up and at the end of the day there wasn’t anybody telling me they’re not coming back. We’re going to hang in there, lick our wounds and go to Steamboat and Crested Butte and regroup. With a win or two along the way, we’ll get into the playoffs.”
Telluride’s Midgets meet Steamboat this Saturday in Steamboat, after which they’ll travel to Crested Butte to face off against their oldest rivals. After New Year’s, they head to Grand Junction, and then return to the Hanley Rink for games on Jan. 18 and 31 and Feb. 8.