Club hockey opens the season with two losses

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Goalkeeper Shaugn Rourke takes a break between periods.

The University of Western Colorado club hockey team kicked off the season last weekend with a pair of home games against the Colorado College Tigers on Nov. 11-12. Both games ended in loss for the Mountaineers.

Although former head coach Daren Glover stepped down in March, at the end of last season the program’s search for a new coach ended just two weeks ago. Now Eric DePaul has taken the helm. Not only is he new to the job, he’s fresh in the valley. He moved to town less than a month ago.

DePaul said his hockey history runs deep — the product of three generations of hockey players from Sonoma, Calif. He played in D3 for Santa Rosa Junior College. From there, he spent several years as a coach before becoming hockey director in Vacaville, located about an hour from his hometown.

While visiting family in the Gunnison Valley, DePaul fell in love with the area and made the decision to move permanently. He applied for the coaching job as soon as he heard about it.

Despite the results of the games against the Tigers, DePaul said he had confidence in his team.

“I arrived and only had two practices with them. But they were still able to implement some of the systems and strategies they learned over those three weeks,” he said. “The kids are very coachable, eager to learn.”

In both games, the Tigers established significant leads before the Mountaineers had time to respond. In the first on Friday, Colorado College managed to put three points on the board in the first period.

Then, in the second period, the Mountaineers found their balance to some extent and put the puck in the back of the net three times – courtesy of Cole Brooker, Aidan Medina and Joe Vennard.

But the Tigers scored twice more to hold on to the lead, making it 5-3 late in the period. In the third, the Tigers sealed the deal with two more goals before the end of the game.

Saturday’s arc was similar although the first half was scoreless. In the second, a string of penalties from Mountaineer gave the Tigers an opportunity to establish an intimidating lead, scoring four goals in the period.

In the third, West players Josh Clyncke and Cole Brooker each got the puck in the net. But Colorado College scored two more to end the game, 6-2.

DePaul noted that the majority of goals, especially in Game 1, were scored in the final minutes of a period. It’s a problem he thinks he can solve by using a restlessness-centered training philosophy, DePaul said.

“The kids started getting flat feet and stopped skating so much towards the end of the period,” he said. “You have to finish every shift, every period, every game. I am trying to install this culture.

(Jacob Spetzler can be reached at 970.641.1414 or [email protected].)

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