Quake players emerged from a quiet locker room last Saturday night.
There was no loud music coming from behind the door following them into the hallway. There was no teasing chatter.
After two straight losses to the first-place Bozeman Icedogs, 4-1, in Montana on Friday night, and then 4-3 back at Riley Arena in Cody, Quake skaters were subdued.
They had expected more and nearly delivered in the second contest, leading most of the way after a 2-0 first-period outburst.
“We just needed to come out a little harder,” said defenseman Will Sokaski, who scored the second goal.
Meeteetse’s Kirwin Johnson put Yellowstone on the board just 1 minute, 39 seconds into the game right in front of Bozeman goal-tender Domagoj Troha and Sobaski added his goal less than 30 seconds later.
“I don’t even remember what I did,” Sokaski said of his shot. “I saw it hit the back of the net.”
This was precisely the kind of start Yellowstone needed after the 9-0 Icedogs put 61 shots on net the night before, keeping goalie Michael Allman extraordinarily busy in all three periods. The Quake’s only goal was notched by Dylan Rumpke in the third period.
In the Cody game, Will Yates collected the Quake’s third goal in the second period before Bozeman began edging back into contention. Bozeman did not tie the game until the third period and took its only lead at 8:29. The Icedogs were flat in the early going, with the Quake the aggressor. The momentum slowly turned and Bozeman ran up another 50 shots.
Forward Hazen McKay scored a hat trick, giving him 13 goals on the season for the Icedogs. The other Bozeman goal was scored by Luke Hartge, who played for the Quake last season.
“It was good the first two periods,” Quake coach Phil Oberlin said. “They have a lot more depth. We did a lot of things we wanted to do, but they’re a very skilled team.”
For much of the night, the Quake did everything right, but still couldn’t hang on.
“Pretty frustrating,” said forward Isaiah Burchett. “We came out hard. We wanted to do it tonight. We’ve just got to fine-tune a couple of details.”
The losses dropped the Quake to 2-8 in North American Tier III junior hockey Frontier Division.
Given Bozeman’s stature in the league this season, it was no disgrace to drop two to the league-leaders, but the Quake needs every win it can get and it felt as if it were just “this close” to picking off an upset.
Yellowstone allowed 111 shots in two games, yet had the jump in the second game and could have skated off with a win.
“It felt really good,” said Cody’s Tyler Cramer of getting the electrifying start. “I think we let ourselves get a little satisfied. It does hurt. We felt like we had ’em.”
The Quake is still not at full-roster size and Oberlin continues to prowl for more talent. He is still scouting and hopes to add some help soon.
“There’s stuff in the works,” Oberlin said.