Jeffrey Harris had one person to thank for his hat trick Dec. 3 against rival Columbine.
"My dad," the Chatfield junior said with a hint of a grin.
Harris got crossways with his father, who implemented a one-period suspension for his son. When Harris made bail he needed a little more than six minutes to score his first goal and spark Chatfield to a 6-2 season-opening victory over the Rebels before a standing-room-only crowd at The Edge Ice Arena.
Harris added an assist on Nathan Grush’s goal and sophomore Trevor Knoll scored twice, including a penalty shot in the third period as the Chargers were faster and sharper than the Rebels.
A year after building a reputation as a skillful and gritty squad that could give even the best teams fits, the Chargers kept the tradition alive with a new batch of talent.
"We’ve never taken Columbine lightly. This is a big rivalry and we’ve always had really tough, close games," Chargers coach Bradd Markusch said. "I didn’t know what to expect when we started because we got a lot of guys coming up that didn’t get a lot of playing time last year. They sure stepped up. I mean, it was impressive."
Senior goalie Cory Johnson made 16 saves for the Chargers, who outshot the Rebels 13-2 in the first period and 28-18 for the game.
Columbine got goals from Brett Evans and Blake Hostetler. Evans scored late in the second period to cut the deficit to 3-1 and Hostetler – who needed medical attention in the second period to close up a bloody gash above his left eye – scored with 10:08 left in the third period to cut Chatfield’s lead to 4-2.
But Harris answered less than three minutes later with his third goal as he stole a pass intended for defenseman Calob Perry at the blue line and beat Rebels’ goalie Jordan Garkow on the breakaway.
Knoll capped the rout when he was hacked down from behind by Evans on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. The speedy Knoll slowed it down for the most exciting play in sports as he made several dekes before flipping the puck around Garkow’s left pad.
The third period grew increasingly chippy as the teams combined for nine penalties, led by Chatfield senior Kristopher Amstutz, who spent seven minutes in the sin bin for elbowing Chris Armstrong and cross-checking.
The Rebels had 4-on-3, 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 advantages but could not chip away at the deficit.
Columbine coach Jeff Marten admitted his team’s mechanics often betrayed them and said the Rebels strayed from their game plan as things heated up. The Rebels wanted a strong forecheck to contain the Chargers but failed to do it much after the first period.
And how tough is it to open a season against a rival and a raucous crowd?
"I don’t think I would have rather had it any other way," Marten said. "It’s good for both teams. Actually, we kind of worked it that way."
Garkow made 22 saves, including a fantastic kick save to rob Michael Salva midway through the second period.