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Durango hockey defends title at Presidents Day tournament

Demons beat Billings in OT to take first
Mitchell Rhodus, pictured in a file photo, helped the Durango varsity hockey team win the Presidents Day tournament in Colorado Springs over the weekend. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Durango varsity high school hockey team this weekend repeated as champions of the Presidents Day tournament in Colorado Springs, securing the title in the 18U-A division with five wins over teams from Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

In the team’s seeding games, Durango went 4-0, beginning with a 4-1 win against the Billings Bulls. Durango then scored 5-2 win over the Casper Oilers, a 5-0 victory versus Castle View High School, and a 7-0 win against Resurrection Christian High School.

The Demons met Montana’s Billings Bulls in the championship game, one of the most exciting contests the Demons have played this season.

The Bulls opened the scoring with a goal at the 1:38 mark of the first period.

After being held scoreless in the first period, Nick Best fired a blast from a tough angle to tie the game 1-1 on a power-play goal at the 1:27 mark in the second. Seniors Cole Matava and Billy Downey assisted Best on the goal.

About six minutes later, Billings pulled ahead again, 2-1, with another goal.

Best, however, scored his second game-tying goal at the 11:18 mark in the second period, getting an assist from Mitchell Rhodus.

Durango’s defense held strong in the third, killing three penalties to help the team end regulation tied 2-2 with the Bulls.

Because a late third-period penalty carried over, the Demons began the five-minute overtime down a player.

The Bulls used their 4-on-3 player advantage to control the puck possession at the start of the overtime, taking several hard shots from the point. On their third shot from the point, however, Durango goalie Evan Brock blocked the shot and sent the puck into the corner. Junior Zak Wentworth picked up the puck and rushed into the neutral zone, where he was knocked down by a Bull.

Senior Bode Ensign picked up the loose puck, raced into the Bulls’ zone and fired a championship-winning, short-handed slap shot into the top of the Bulls net. The goal gave Durango a 3-2 victory and its second consecutive championship in the Presidents Day tournament.

The team’s leading point scorers from the tournament included Henry Howe, who had six goals and six assists for 12 points, including a hat trick. Wentworth had six goals and five assists for 11 points, earning a playmaker award in one of the games. Ensign had three goals and three assists for six points. Best finished with three goals and an assist for four points.

Matava, Rhodus, Luk Petranek, Billy Downey, Cristoff Hollowell and Maddy Glotfelty also scored goals for the Demons, and Zach Griswold and Mason Rhodus had assists. Zealand Eaton, John Womack and Julia Glotfelty also contributed to the team’s weekend success.

Over the five games, the Demons killed off 19 of 20 penalties for a 95% penalty kill rate. Durango also out shot their opponents 145 to 63. Goalie Brock finished the tournament with a .926 save percentage while recording two shutouts.

Durango will travel to Albuquerque March 4-6 for the Rio Grande High School Hockey League Year End Tournament, where the Demons will try and defend the league championship they won two seasons ago. The tournament was not held last season because of COVID.

The Demons also were scheduled to host El Paso on Saturday for a pair of games, at 12:45 and 6:45 p.m.

UPDATE: The games against El Paso have been canceled. The Demons will now scrimmage with its U14 team Saturday.