Glenwood Springs hockey excited for first puck-drop of the 2021 season
As the echoes of pucks slapping against sticks died down Tuesday night, players started to drift listlessly along the ice.
Sweat beading down their red noses, they could finally rest.
Coach Tim Cota had called it a night.
The Glenwood Springs Demons were given the green light to huddle near the boards for one final sign-off.
“Boys,” one of the players yelled, “We’ve got a big game coming up!”
With that, the 2021 regular season has officially started.
With puck-drop slated for 7:45 p.m. Friday night at Steamboat Springs, the Demons look to pick up right where they left off: ending the 2020 season the second round of the state playoffs in Denver.
The 2020 playoff run was punctuated by senior talent. Their overall 12-6-3 record was aided in the likes of senior co-captains Ryan Kotz and Jacob Fowler, as well as seniors Sean Mooney and Dylan Webster, a potent weapon who last year netted five goals in one late-season game against Columbine.
Cota may have lost these offensive threats — and seven other seniors — to graduation, but he’s still got plenty of talent returning to the ice this season.
“We’re looking good,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of tests yet, a lot of practices or not a lot of games, but we’re starting this weekend and it’s going to be a lot of games back-to-back-to-back.”
Taking the offensive helm this season will be senior forward Colter Strautman, who notched 29 goals and 29 assists in 2020. Not only as a junior did he score one of the final goals that season, he got the nod to play for the Hockey Hub’s Colorado High School Activities Association Dream Team.
“I’m really excited,” Strautman said of the upcoming game action. “It’s been nice to get practice in a lot, but the game is where it really starts.”
Strautman was asked what he feels his team needs to refine skills-wise.
“I think just getting used to the high-speed play style, because we’ve just been practicing with ourselves,” he said. “We’re getting thrown into a really intense season, so getting ready for that is going to be our biggest challenge.”
Then there’s senior defenseman Connor Powell, a team ironman who amassed 969 minutes of ice time in 19 games. Amid the vacancies left by last year’s seniors, Powell said this year’s Demons still have enough go-to guys to fill in the spots.
“We have a lot of our older guys taking up all the slack and our younger guys are really filling in the shoes,” he said. “They’re working really hard, which is nice.”
With Powell and Strautman getting the tap for co-captains this year, they’re “going to lead by example.”
“The best captions are the ones you see putting in the work every shift.”
Cota echoed his captain’s sentiment.
“One thing that these guys do — Coulter (Strautman) and Connor (Powell) — they have a lot of experience at the varsity level and they lead by example,” he said. “They’re very positive with our younger guys and they are also critical when they need to be. It’s not a pat on the back all the time; sometimes they need to work harder and they push the boys to do so.”
So far the Demons have 43 kids out for high school hockey this year — of which, 10 are seniors, according to the varsity roster.
“We’ve got depth, we’ve got experience and we’ve got a lot of younger kids coming up that have a lot of contributions to the varsity this year,” Cota said.
Cota acknowledged the challenges COVID-19 presents in conforming to different rink policies and schedules.
“I think one of the biggest challenges this year is, the dynamics of every rink is a little bit different on how we get prepared,” he said. “With covid around, you can’t be in the locker room together, you’ve got to get prepared in different ways and be able to adapt to each different rink…. The game is going to be different that way.”
The tenured coach of 32 years looks to get everything he can out of his team this year, saying he wants to give the seniors “a year that they’ll remember.” This includes making another unforgettable push toward a playoff berth in Denver.
“We’re going to take it a game at a time, but our goal is to make the playoffs,” he said. But he also wants to take each stride one puck drop at a time. “I don’t know how we’re getting to the next game because I’m only worried about Steamboat. I don’t look too far past that.”
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The Glenwood Springs Fire Department is battling a small blaze on a ridgeline west of Yampah Mountain High School.