Young talent skates forward

Titans hope to maintain winning ways under new coach

Brandon Warr

Times Staff Writer

 

Crested Butte Hockey — When a program makes it to the second round of the playoffs, one might expect the head coach to return the following season. However, the Crested Butte High School hockey team is under new leadership this season, as Jake Johnston replaces Joey Otsuka as head coach.

In the Titans’ first season with a varsity squad in the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA), the team finished with a 12-6-1 record, while making the playoffs as the No. 12 ranked team. After beating No. 21 Liberty Lancers 8-2, the Titans season came to an end against No. 5 Valor Christian following a 4-2 loss. 

“We lost a lot of key players from last year’s team,” said player Colten Crittendon, “but we have a lot of good young talent stepping up and I have no doubt that we will go as far.”

Johnston brings years of playing experience to the team — at the Juniors, Division I and semi-pro levels — that he will utilize to help the Titans continue their winning ways.

With the Titans strength last season coming from their ability to work as a team and soak up the knowledge Otsuka relayed, it shouldn’t be hard for the Titans to achieve Johnston’s goal of focusing on success.

In the short time coach Johnston has had to evaluate his players, nine Titans have stood out in the coach’s eyes.

On the defensive side for the Titans are Crittendon, Luke Collins, Chris Meyers and John Smith.

Crittendon will return for his final season as a Titan after recording three goals and five assists last season.

Collins, who Johnston says could play either defense or forward for the Titans, returns as the leading score from last season after Lucas Solanik left this past summer to play for the Richmond Generals in Virginia. Collins recorded seven goals and four assists last season.

Meyers and Smith will also look to make an impact once again this season after combining for three goals and two assists last season.

At the forward winger position, Walker Carroll, Slater Weil and Kaden Hardesty come into the 2017-18 campaign looking to replace the scoring power that Solanik brought to the Titans last season. Carroll and Weil combined for one goal and four assists last season.

Competing for the job at forward center this season are Joe Coburn and Sam Stepanek. Stepanek recorded three goals and two assists last season.

These nine players will have to continue to work hard every day as coach Johnston believes that “every practice is a tryout.”

The Titans will kick their season off tomorrow, Dec. 1 as they travel to the Honnen Ice Arena in Colorado Springs to take on the Coronado Cougars.

 

(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or brandon@gunnisontimes.com.)

 

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