Ben Ripperton probably won’t ever be the biggest guy on the ice.
And while a nickname such as ‘Big Ben’ would only be in jest for the Columbine forward, he certainly stood tallest Feb. 6 as the Rebels rallied to defeat rival Dakota Ridge 4-2 at The Edge Ice Arena.
"We came in with pride and fought hard at the end and got a win," Ripperton said.
Ripperton scored the game-winning goal off a nice feed from Bo Shirley with 3:41 remaining as the Rebels stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to snap an eight-game winless streak. Ripperton sparked the rally with a short-handed goal 25 seconds after the Eagles extended their lead on Gordon Nytes’ second goal of the afternoon.
The goals swelled Ripperton’s season tally to three. Beware, the Little Ripper.
"That’s been one of the positives this year is they’ve come back," Rebels coach Jeff Marten said. "They’ve never given up."
Columbine (2-6-2 Foothills League, 4-11-2 overall), which wraps up the regular season with games against powers Ralston Valley and Aspen, avenged a 3-2 loss to Dakota Ridge from Dec. 20. The Eagles (1-11, 4-14) dropped their seventh straight.
Blake Hostetler scored the tying goal and Ty Shirley salted away the win with an empty netter.
The match wasn’t pretty in terms of execution, but it did erupt into a spicy blend of drama and chippy behavior after a lifeless – and scoreless – first period.
Nytes changed all that just 12 seconds in to the second period when Harrison Smith’s shot from the right side was brushed aside by Rebels goalie Michael McCuaig. Nytes was alone on the left and had an easy shot at the vacant side of the net.
Nytes made it 2-0 just two minutes later with a power-play goal, his 12th of the season. The Eagles were still on the powerplay with Columbine’s Calob Perry in the box for hooking, but Ripperton turned the tide by stuffing in his first goal of the afternoon.
Hostetler tied the game less than two minutes later as he sharked his way across the top of the crease and got a nice feed from behind Bobby Willey’s goal by Orion Tallmadge.
The Eagles had plenty of chances to regain the lead, starting with a 5-on-3 advantage for 1 minute, 44 seconds in the second period. The Eagles would start the third period with another 5-on-3 advantage, this time for 1 minute, 38 seconds.
"I’d rather have a 5-on-4 than a 5-on-3," Eagles coach Brock Anundson said. "There’s so much ice and so many options to go to that nobody wants to take the lead and get a good, hard shot in."
Things grew increasingly chippy as several roughing penalties were called, including the ejection of Dakota Ridge’s Zach Steerman.
Columbine’s was guilty of coming up scoreless on 81 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage. Corey Kline and Seamus O’Connor were both denied for the Rebels, while Taylor VanAllen and Zach Feather were denied for the Eagles.
Then Ripperton struck with 3:41 remaining.
"I just went around the (defense) and shot it low and hard. It went in," he said.