Grizzlies win state hockey title
Apr 11, 2018 10:24AM
● By Greg James
The celebration begins after the Grizzlies defeated Bingham for the division 2 state hockey championship. (Greg James/City Journals)
The pressure of an undefeated season weighed on the minds of the Copper Hills hockey team as they entered their state championship game, but they overcame their internal stress to capture the victory.
“It feels pretty awesome to be a senior and go out on top,” forward Kyle Van Leeuwen said. “We felt confident going in (before the game.) We knew Bingham would give us a good fight. We battled really hard and came out with the win.”
The Grizzlies faced Bingham in the finals contest. Their 9-6 victory was their second in the playoffs over Bingham. They finished the regular season 14-0-1.
The championship game see-sawed back in forth the first two periods. Bingham scored the initial goal of the game, but Van Leeuwen chipped in a shot just 30 seconds later to tie it at one. The game continued with each team leading for short periods of time only to give up the tying goal seconds later. After two periods the Grizzlies held on to a narrow 6-5 lead.
“They deserve it, this is a great bunch of kids and they worked hard all season,” first year Grizzly head coach Dave Pitcher said. “I knew it would be a tough game. In the second intermission we talked about our systems and playing our game.”
The Grizzlies Tanner Walker finished with three goals, Van Leeuwen had two and Donhnavon Jacobson scored two more.
The Grizzlies finished the 2017-18 campaign undefeated. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect season was a 5-5 tie against Bingham Oct.11.
“Bingham is a great team. I was nervous coming into this game. They are well coached and I knew we would have a tough game against them,” Pitcher said. “We started our season last May and played summer league and worked on skills and conditioning. We had a great season. They are a great bunch of kids.”
Jacobson led the team in goals scored this season netting 29 and had 23 assists. Kasten Jones had 25 goals and Van Leeuwen 23.
Mason Walsh captured 12 victories as the team’s leading goalie. Alexander Plett relieved him in the third period of the championship game to help the Grizzlies win the state championship game.
“When I entered the game,” Plett said. “I thought ‘I just don’t want to let down my team,’ now it feels great to be state champs.”
Bingham pulled their goalie and earned a two-man advantage near the end of regulation, but the Grizzlies were able to maintain their lead.
“I am glad we were able to gain control at the end and ice that puck at the end of the game to earn the win,” Pitcher said. “I would like to see high school hockey grow in popularity. I think for it to we need teams like the University of Utah and the Las Vegas Knights to keep growing. We had our ups and downs and the pressure to stay undefeated was difficult, but they weathered the storm and had a great season.”
The Grizzlies won their state title just two days after the United States women’s team won the gold medal at the PyeongChang, South Korea Winter Olympics. Cierra Frandsen, Emily Hilman and Jordyn Baker were the only three girls on the Grizzlies team with 17 boys.