Mike McCuaig doesn’t see any stars on the Columbine hockey roster this season.
But the Rebels’ goalie and his teammates are trying to corner the market on ‘scrappy.’
“It’s scrappy, but we get the job done,” McCuaig said. “We scrap, but we’re not ridiculous with it. We try to draw penalties.”
The Rebels drew plenty of penalties, dished out some tough love of their own and McCuaig made 22 saves to preserve a 2-1 Foothills League victory Jan. 2 over the Peak to Peak Pumas at the Edge.
Trent Edwards scored the game-winner in the second period and Bo Shirley scored the opener on the power-play in the first period, in addition to racking up a team-high 14 penalty minutes. The teams combined for 78 penalty minutes, 32 by the Rebels.
Call it some holiday stress relief, in addition to the best 45 minutes of hockey first-year coach Justin Depretis has seen his Rebels play this season, despite a missed penalty shot and failing to convert on a 5-on-3 advantage for two minutes.
“It’s very fun to watch. I’m very proud of them,” he said.
The Rebels generated a lot of scoring opportunities on the power-play, they defended well, cleared the corners and simmered without boiling over. More succinctly — they were even-keel in an atmosphere that was sliding toward bedlam.
“You can’t have your emotions like a roller coaster — too high and too low,” Depretis said.
Edwards' game-winner, his second of the season, came on a sleepy run down the left boards. Edwards, who also assisted on Shirley's opener, cut toward the center of the ice just after crossing the blue line, used Peak to Peak's Chance Creger as a screen and fired a slow, deflected shot under the glove hand of goalie Connor Lance with 2:36 remaining in the second period.
“I’d say it was good placement, but it was not that hard of a shot,” said Edwards, who leads the Rebels with eight goals in seven games this season.
It was a perfect consolation prize for the Rebels, who killed off a 5-on-3 earlier in the period, failed to convert on their own two-man advantage and watched Seth Tillapaugh draw a penalty shot that went for naught.
McCuaig made five saves to stone the Pumas, who had two-man advantage for 54 seconds. The Rebels managed just three shots on goal during their two minutes of 5-on-3 hockey, but that was quickly forgotten when Tillapaugh tracked down a great overhead pass, broke free and was hooked from behind just as he shot.
Tillapaugh took the subsequent penalty shot but couldn't stuff the puck past Lance on the glove side.
It was an eventful night for Tillapaugh, who was sent to the penalty box three times and seemed to get under the skin of the Pumas. Shortly after Josh Wright nearly scored shorthanded in the third period, tempers erupted with 4:42 remaining as Bo Shirley and Peak to Peak's Evan Ward exchanged punches and received matching 10-minute misconduct penalties.
McCuaig, meanwhile, would make several key stops in the waning minutes to secure the victory.
“I wasn’t going to let us lose," he said. "This is a huge game.”