There’s a lot of crimson on the Chatfield sweaters for a reason.
“You know, they play with a lot of heart,” Chargers coach Bradd Markusch said Jan. 8 after Chatfield lost 3-0 at the Edge to Ralston Valley, arguably the best team in the state this season.
“This is a game that they get up for because the competition is great,” he said. “We just seem to play up to that kind of competition. The guys were really psyched for this game.”
The Chargers pitched a shutout in the first period, allowed two unfortunate goals in the second period, had a shorthanded goal nullified by an offside call and dominated the first half of the third period. For a team that is 4-5 this season, the Chargers proved that when they are dialed in they can play with the best -- and even put them on their heels for a bit.
“It could have easily been a 2-1, 1-1 game,” Chatfield junior forward Nate Grush said.
Chatfield goalie Austin Miller turned away 38 shots, making several top-shelf saves against the deep, fast, skilled and relentless Mustangs (6-0-1). The Mustangs didn’t give the Chargers many good looks at goalie Kyle Piersky, allowing just 20 shots.
The resolve of both teams seemed to sharpen when down a man, and the Chargers nearly cut the deficit to 2-1 with two minutes left in the second period with Daniel Linden in the penalty box for boarding.
Kyle Davis broke up a pass near the blue line and streaked down the ice. Grush pounced on the loose puck, knifed a beautiful pass to Davis’ stick just as he entered the Mustangs’ zone and fired a low shot through the legs of Piersky -- who was saved by linesman raising his arm for offside.
Grush, Andrew Lovell, Robbie Render and Mickey Salva all generated good scoring chances, but the Chargers couldn’t catch any breaks.
The Chargers had a strong first period defensively and were buoyed by the 0-0 score.
“Just dump the puck, forecheck high and keep that third guy high,” Grush said.
The Mustangs, however, finally broke through two minutes into the second period when a low shot somehow found its way into the net even though Miller looked to have made the save with Blake Speechley backing him up.
Four minutes later the Mustangs were up 2-0 when a flopping shot skimmed Miller’s glove and arm on its way into the net.
The Chargers played their best hockey in the third period as Grush got an early breakaway. The Chargers were quicker to the puck and had the Mustangs on their heels through several line changes.
The Mustangs finally put the game away with a superb goal over Miller’s shoulder with 7:10 remaining.