Late goal sends Fort Collins to victory


Brandon Kruse

Lone Fossil senior Zach Bakken (center) plays his final regular season game.

Brandon Kruse

It was senior night at the NoCo Ice Center. In front of a packed and energized crowd, the Fort Collins ice hockey team (12-4-2) hosted the Ralston Valley Mustangs (8-8) in what would be the final game of the 2018-19 regular season for Fort Collins. For a team accommodating 10 seniors (including Fossil’s very own Zach Bakken), the game would be a thrilling finish to the Lambkins regular season schedule.

The night’s festivities also included a PSD-wide fundraiser supporting the local children’s hospital and their cancer research. In the end, those in attendance at the game raised about $500! A big shoutout to all of those who participated and made the generous donations!

Due to senior recognition night, the puck dropped a little later than expected at approximately 8:30 PM MST, and the game was set between the two clubs at the NoCo Ice Center.

The first period was evenly matched. Though most of the action occurred in the Fort Collins defensive zone, the Mustangs didn’t see any significant scoring chances and Lambkins’ goalie Blake Haan was solid in net. In fact, with 1:06 left in the first period, it was Fort Collins that cracked the scoreboard first when senior Greg Bilek received a great pass from the right wing and flipped the puck past Mustang goaltender Blake Hart. As a result, the score was 1-0 in favor of Fort Collins at the first intermission.

Brandon Kruse
Ethan Nelson denied on a breakaway.

In spite of Ralston Valley increasing pressure on the forecheck, Fort Collins found itself scoring two additional goals in the second. Senior Marc DuHadway found the loose puck that slid across the crease and sniped it past Hart. Subsequently, DuHadway recorded his second goal after wristing the puck in the back of the net while cruising down the right wing slot. Ralston Valley would answer on a power play when forward Zack Savarise wristed the puck from the point past Haan, but they would still trail Fort Collins 3-1 with one period left to play.

The power play goal by Savarise infused a comeback by the Mustangs. Fort Collins began committing a series of defensive miscues, all of which cost them deeply. 33 seconds into the third, Savarise cashed in his second goal of the contest when he too flipped the discarded puck near the front of the crease into the goal. The tying goal happened after a Fort Collins defender whiffed and turned the puck over behind his own net. Ralston Valley forward Cainan Stevenson stole the puck, made his way around the front, and slid the puck past an unbalanced Haan. The Mustangs scored three unanswered goals, and it seemed they would preserve the tie by killing off two crucial penalties (a 5-minute major for checking from behind and a 2-minute minor for holding) in the last six minutes of the third.

However, on a one-man advantage power play with 11 seconds left in the game, a tic-tac-toe sequence of passes found Fort Collins forward Ethan Nelson receiving the puck at the inside edge of the left faceoff circle. A quick one-timer from the Fort Collins senior tickled the twine and the crowd erupted! The victory seemed guaranteed. But with an empty net and six attackers, the Mustangs secured the face-off and made a furious charge to the Fort Collins net. What ensued was an all-out assault that included three solid scoring chances. But Fort Collins survived the 11 seconds of chaos and emerged with a 4-3 victory! The Lambkins ended their regular season with an impressive 13 wins while the Mustangs fell to 8-9.