Photo by John Leyba, Mullen Sports Photographer

The 2018-19 ice hockey team at The Edge.

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Bright season ends with 6-1 playoff defeat

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

EAGLE – The end didn’t justify the means or the growth.

So Mullen’s 6-1 loss to host Battle Mountain on Wednesday night in the first round of the Colorado playoffs made for a disappointing finale as well as a late ride home from the Rocky Mountains and a very early wake-up call on Thursday.

But for a program that was 1-18 just a couple of years ago, hadn’t had anything close to a winning season in six years and finally had enough interest to begin a junior-varsity squad, a 10-8-2 showing couldn’t be diminished.

“It’s hard to swallow after the season we had,” Mustangs head coach Devon Brady said of Wednesday’s game. “But the experience we got out of it, yeah, it was good. Playoff hockey is different than in the regular season and we didn’t match it. We reverted back to our old selves in terms of discipline issues.”

The difference in shots certainly helped to tell the story – Mullen was outshot 51-13 for the game, 40-11 over the first two periods. And even though the Mustangs left the ice after 17 minutes trailing only 1-0, they came unglued in the second period by giving up four goals and being whistled for enough penalties to fill a statistics sheet.

“It was bad,” Brady said. “You know, we have struggled all year when teams kind of ramp it up on us. It’s playoff hockey and we couldn’t match the level (the Huskies) started with and I think we survived a little.”

Despite only two shots on goal in a chippy third period, Utah Bryant (assisted by Larry Simons) allowed Mullen to avoid a shutout with a late goal.

Mustangs junior goalie Connor Mahon probably wanted Battle Mountain’s first goal back, just 1 minute, 6 seconds in, one in which he didn’t protect the far post on a wrap-around, but, as Brady said, “he hadn’t let one in like that all year and we had a defensive breakdown.”

Afterward, Mahon was his usual wall self, including stopping a couple of breakaways and surviving multiple shorthanded situations. He didn’t have much chance to stop the pucks that got past him as the Huskies, now 11-5-3 and who will take on Denver East in the second round, constantly had the Mustangs on their heels.

Backup goalie Dominic Maurais played the third period and stopped 10-of-11 shots as well as a 2-on-none.

Mullen, dominated by underclassmen, will lose only two seniors for next season, notably captain and defenseman John Witwer, so lots of material will return.

The jump from also-ran to playoff qualifier was significant and the Mustangs are already thinking about taking the next step.

“We did great,” Brady said.

 

Mustangs finish nicely on ice

Mullen shuts out Coronado 4-0, now awaits playoff fate at 10-7-2

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – In capping its regular season, Mullen earned a shutout victory on Thursday.

The host Mustangs blanked Colorado Springs’ Coronado 4-0 in nonconference play at The Edge. The Mustangs are 10-7-2 and await their playoff fate. The 24-team postseason bracket is due to be released on Sunday.

Mullen had already secured its first winning record since the 2012-13 season and has its most victories since that season. The Mustangs were 10-9-1 seven seasons ago. And it has been a good turnaround -- they were 1-18 in 2016-17.

In jumping on the Cougars (4-12-3) almost immediately, Robbie Witwer scored 1 minute, 28 seconds into it with assists from John Baird and Amos Mills. The lead grew to 2-0 late in the period, at 13:34, on a score by Hunter Kear from Ashton Smaldone.

The Mustangs’ Utah Bryant scored a quickie, just 9 seconds into the second period, to make it 3-0 on assists from Baird and Witwer, and Smaldone capped the scoring with a late goal from Truman Boettiger and Nick Gilbert.

All of the balanced scoring came while at even strength.

In goal, Mullen’s regular Connor Mahon teamed with Dominic Maurais for the shutout.

Mullen outshot Coronado 44-40 and its defense was strong in killing five power-play opportunities. The Mustangs never got a chance with player advantage as the Cougars were not whistled for an infraciion.

 

Heritage shuts out Mustangs 3-0

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Three games in three days produced a 1-1-1 showing.

Mullen won’t complain.

The Mustangs, who had a tie, a shutout victory and a shutout loss over the weekend, were handled by Heritage 3-0 on Saturday at South Suburban Ice Arena. The Highlands Conference loss put them at 3-6-1 and 9-7-2 overall.

The Eagles are 11-5-2 and 7-1 in the Highlands, three points behind Denver East, and have won five games in a row.

“That’s a very good team,” Mustangs head coach Devon Brady said. “They have nine seniors. Two years (Mullen has mostly sophomores and only two seniors) make a big difference in development.”

Plus, he said, “the tank was pretty low today and we kind of expected that.”

The Mustangs stayed within range and permitted only a goal in each period as junior Connor Mahon was mainly responsible for keeping it close with a variety of testing saves – they were outshot 28-13 -- but generating offense remained a problem, particularly with player advantage. They were 0-of-7 on the power play.

“That has been our Achilles’ heel all year and we’re still trying to figure it out,” Brady said.

However, Mullen was 24th in seeding and occupying the final postseason spot entering their recent three-game stretch and Brady said its fortunes probably improved with one game to play, a “must-win” in nonleague against Coronado on Thursday at The Edge.

“Against Kent Denver, Heritage and Denver East, I said we would need one win and we’re going to end up 1-4-1, so we came out ahead,” Brady said. “I think we’re in a good spot. And we’re only two years from going 1-18.”

 

Slide ends with win over Kent

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Mullen’s skid in ice hockey ended.

The Mustangs beat Kent Denver 4-0 on Friday night at the University of Denver’s Joy Burns Arena. In snapping an 0-3-2 stretch, Mullen improved to 9-6-2 overall, 3-5-1 in the Highlands Conference and tied with the Sun Devils.

Utah Bryant and Eoin Canavan each scored twice as the Mustangs now have their most victories since going 10-9-1 in the 2012-13 season.

Bryant scored the game’s first two goals, the second in the opening minutes of the second period, and Canavan made it 3-0 on a penalty shot at 13:38 of the middle period. His second goal came at 1:14 of the third. J.C. Carter and Truman Boettiger had assists.

Once again, Mustangs junior goalie Connor Mahon was strong, stopping all 41 shots – the Mustangs generated just 22 – including 35 over the final two periods.

The Mustangs’ third game in three days will be Saturday, 6:30 p.m., against Heritage at South Suburban. The Eagles sit second in the conference.

 

Mustangs tie at Rampart 2-2 in OT

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

COLORADO SPRINGS – Weather problems have wreaked havoc recently with Mullen’s sports schedule the Mustangs ice hockey team played its first of three games over three days late Thursday night.

In an 8:35 p.m. starting time, the Mustangs gave up a third-period goal and had to settle for a 2-2 tie in overtime in nonconference at World Arena. The game was played despite Mullen having a snow day.

The Mustangs are 8-6-2 and attempting to fight through a 0-3-2 skid. Their last victory was on Jan. 19. Rampart is 8-5-3.

Mullen failed to hold two leads. Utah Bryant gave it a 1-0 edge 3:17 into the first period before the Rams leveled it at 1 with less than 3 minutes remaining in the period.

Alex Hertlein gave the Mustangs their second lead 5:25 into the second, although Rampart again responded, scoring at 6:59 of the third.

Neither team could do much on the power play – the Mustangs were 1-of-6; the Rams 1-of-5 – and Rampart outshot Mullen 37-32, including 14-8 in the third and 5-1 in OT.

Mustangs goalie Connor Mahon continued his solid play, and Robert Witwer and Ashton Smaldone contributed assists.

Mullen is staring at two Highlands Conference road games – on Friday, 7 p.m., vs. Kent Denver at the University of Denver, and Saturday, 6:30 p.m., against Heritage at South Suburban.

 

‘Stangs slip twice to Angels in conference

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – The rough stretch for Mullen continued into the weekend.

In dropping consecutive games to Denver East, the Mustangs are on a 0-3-1 slide. They fell 4-0 to the Angels on Friday night at Big Bear and followed with a 4-2 setback on Saturday at The Edge.

Now 8-6-1, Mullen still has time to regroup and solidify a spot in the 24-team playoff bracket, but it also needs what head coach Devon Brady calls a signature win ... or two.

Both losses came in the Highlands Conference. Denver East continues at the top at 7-0-1 and the Mustangs are 2-5-1.

“We’re close,” Brady said on Saturday.

In Friday’s loss, the Mustangs again handled being outshot against a bigger, stronger and more-experienced team, as a couple of mistakes probably mushroomed to allowing a four-goal third period.

As for Saturday, Mullen opened the game by perhaps playing its “worst period of the year,” Brady said, in falling behind 3-0 before rallying in the second. Goals by Utah Bryant and Aidan Cashman kept it tight and the Mustangs missed on two good chances to tie it.

In addition, Robby Witwer had opportunities on a penalty shot and breakaway only to come up short. The Angels added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds to seal it and the Mustangs were outshot 19-5 in the third.

Once again, despite giving up the three first-period scores, Mustangs junior goalie Connor Mahon was big, stopping 29 Angels shots over the final 34 minutes.

Mullen still has conference games to play, beginning on Friday, Feb. 8, vs. Kent Denver at the University of Denver, 7 p.m., and is looking for a late-season surge.

“We got behind early,” center Riley Watters said. “We just need to keep going.”

Brady had hoped for a couple of points this weekend, but knows the Angels lead the conference for a reason. And they have a matchup against Heritage, which is behind Denver East by a point in the conference. The Mustangs also dropped two one-goal games to third-place Columbine.

“That’s a good team,” he said of the Angels. “We’re right there. We have to be ready for the next one.”

 

 

Mustangs go 0-1-1 in weekend play

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – Mullen had to settle for a point in back-to-back home games this weekend at The Edge.

On Friday, the Mustangs were handled in a 5-2 loss to Heritage and came back on Saturday to rally for a 4-4 tie against Kent Denver.

Both games were in the Highlands Conference. The Mustangs are 8-4-1 overall, 2-3-1 in conference.

The loss to Heritage, which ended a 4-1 stretch, came after Mullen had taken a 2-1 lead. However, the Mustangs, who were outshot 45-24, gave up the next four goals. All told, three of the Eagles scores came on the power play.

Nick Gilbert scored both goals for Mullen. Assists came from Aidan Cashman and Hunter Kear.

In the tie with the Sun Devils, the Mustangs overcame two deficits and couldn’t hold a 4-3 lead.

Utah Bryant and Nick Gilbert scored in the second period to forge a 2-2 tie and goals in the third period by Alex Hertlein and Larry Simons gave Mullen a 4-3 lead before Kent Denver got the equalizer at 16:05.

Mullen outshot Kent Denver 31-28.

Simons (two), Kear and Bryant had the assists for the Mustangs.

Junior Connor Mahon was in goal for both games.

Mullen will be at Rampart on Monday at Sertich Arena in Colorado Springs, 7:55 p.m.

 

Icemen enjoy mountain sweep

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

There may be something to this mountain ice hockey thing for Mullen … at least, there was over the weekend.

The Mustangs, in improving to 8-3, won twice on a mountain road trip – 5-1 at Summit on Friday and 3-1 at Steamboat Springs.

Both nonconference victories were welcomed as the Mustangs weren’t sharp in losing on Thursday to undefeated Doherty at home.

Against Summit, Riley Watters scored twice and Utah Bryant, Amos Mills and Robby Witwer added goals. Larry Simmons was credited with two assists and Witwer, Eoin Canavan, John Witwer, John Baird and Ben McManus contributed helpers.

The Mustangs were outshot 23-22, but junior goalie Connor Mahon allowed only the one score for the Tigers.

As for the victory over the Sailors, the Mustangs scored in each period. In order, the goals were by Hunter Kear, Watters and Mills. Nick Gilbert (two), Ashton Smaldone and Canavan had assists.

Mahon again allowed just one goal.

The Mustangs will resume play next weekend, Jan 25-26, with Highlands Conference games at home at The Edge. They will host Heritage on Friday, 8:30 p.m., followed by Kent Denver on Saturday, 6:15 p.m.

 

Doherty stays unbeaten, downs ‘Stangs 4-1

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – Thursday’s 4-1 matinee loss to visiting Doherty by Mullen at The Edge was a bit confounding and in multiple ways.

In dropping to 6-3 overall with the nonconference setback, the Mustangs had chances early, but couldn’t convert.

Colorado Springs’ Doherty, now 9-0-2, had about a 4-minute stretch to open the second period that produced three unanswered goals to practically settle the game.

Mustangs goalie Connor Mahon  turned in another solid performance that included stopping two breakaways, but his coach said the fourth goal that got past him probably was one that he’d like to have back.

And both teams seem to be still looking for that big victory over a quality opponent.

“We didn’t get much puck luck tonight,” Mustangs head coach Devon Brady said. “I thought our energy level was good and our competitive level was pretty good. We outplayed them the first period, but we have to figure out our power play. It’s not working, almost a liability.”

Mullen was 0-of-7 with extra player(s) advantages, but spent the majority of that time chasing down cleared pucks or struggling to get out of its own zone.

Outshooting the Spartans 9-8 over the first 17 minutes, Mullen still trailed 1-0 as a rebound opportunity was finished, but the opening shifts of the middle period made it an uphill climb. Doherty scored at 0:28, 2:27 and 3:49 of the second, quick enough to stun the Mustangs.

“We played bad hockey four about 4 minutes of the second period,” Brady said. “It’s 51 minutes, not 47. You have to play 51.”

Mullen got on the board at 10:23 of the second as Larry Simons finished an an odd-man rush and scramble out front set up by Riley Watters, but that was it. The Mustangs managed only 11 shots over the final 34 minutes (Doherty had 25). They flirted with a couple of chances, including when they had a 5-on-3 advantage, but they didn’t get another one past Spartans goalie Eric Bucholz. And twice Mullen shot at open nets on severe side-angle shots.

“All things considered, if we bury another one … it’s a 4-2 game and we’re in it,” Brady said.

The Mustangs lines also had to be juggled as forward Ashton Smaldone had an allergic reaction in the early part of the game, another Mustang was injured and still another out sick, but Brady said “we have to figure out a way to overcome that.”

Other Mustangs issues included failure to regularly carry the puck and receive passes – “Our hands were not good,” Brady said – and their defense was unusually inconsistent.

“We should have buried a couple early (for goals) and we stopped playing for a few minutes and it cost us,” Brady said.

However, there is little time to sulk. It was the first of three games over three days. Mullen heads to the mountains to visit Summit on Friday, 6:30 p.m., and Steamboat Springs on Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

“It’s a business trip for us and we need to get two wins,” the coach said. “Two wins on the road is possible and it’s what we need.”

 

DOHERTY 4, MULLEN 1

Doherty  1  3  0  --  4

Mullen  0  1  0  --  1

Mullen Scoring

Second Period – Larry Simons (Riley Watters), 10:28.

Saves – Hunter Mahon, 29.

Power Plays – Mullen 0-for-7, Doherty 0-for-2.

Penalties – Mullen 3-for-6 minutes; Doherty 7-for-14.

 

Robby Witwer, icemen climb to 6-2

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sport Information Specialist

LITTLETON – Robby Witwer scored twice in the third period on Saturday note as Mullen broke open a scoreless tie for a 3-1 victory over Chatfield at The Edge.

The Mustangs moved to 6-2 overall, 2-2 in the Highlands Conference. Chatfield is 2-7-2, 0-5.

It was the second consecutive game for the Mustangs against the Chargers – they also played a week ago, on Jan. 5, with Mullen winning 2-1 in the opener to the scheduling quirk.

The game had been scoreless through two periods despite the fact that the Mustangs had outshot the Chargers 33-16, including 22-8 in the first period.

However, Witwer, John Baird and Utah Bryant would connect for three scores.

First, Witwer scored at 6:16 of the final period off assists from Baird and Bryant. Bryant upped it to 2-0 at 13:31 on an assist from Baird. And Witwer added his second score on an assist from Bryant.

All three goals came at even strength.

Chatfield finally got one past Mustangs junior goalie Hunter Mahon inside the final 2 minutes of the game.

The Mustangs will have three consecutive nonconference games this week. On Thursday, Jan. 19, they will be home against Colorado Springs’ Doherty at The Edge, a matinee at 2:30 p.m. It will be followed by a trip to the mountains for a Friday matchup against Summit, 6:30 p.m., and Saturday at Steamboat Springs, 4:30 p.m.

 

MULLEN 3, CHATFIELD 1

Chatfield  0  0  1  -- 1

Mullen  0  0  3  -- 3

Mullen Scoring

Third Period – Robby Witwer (John Baird, Utah Bryant), 6:16; Bryant (Baird), 13:31; Witwer (Bryant), 15:18.

Shots on Goal – Chatfield 8-8-9—25; Mullen 22-11-9—42.

Saves – Hunter Mahon, 24.

Power Plays – Chatfield 0-for-3; Mullen 0-for-8.

Penalties – Chatfield 9 for 29 minutes; Mullen 4 for 8.

 

Defense sparks 2-1 win over Chatfield

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – Devon Brady admits that he sounds like a broken record or a CD that skips.

But what else would a head coach of a younger, emerging ice hockey team sound like?

His team, Mullen, earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday night in the Highlands Conference at The Edge and, predictably, his postgame comments continued to be similar.

“I know I sound like a broken record,” he said. “We didn’t play our best, but … we found a way and it’s another step.”

In fact, it was a large leap. Indeed, the coach’s comments included words such as “young team” and “we’re still learning” and “we need to do a better job” and so on, but the part about finding a way to win on this night really did involve taking another step. The Mustangs, now 5-2 overall and 1-2 in conference, have had both losses come to Columbine by a goal after they held leads in both, including Friday’s 4-3 setback in which they led 3-1.

“It’s huge,” Mustangs senior defenseman John Witwer said, “especially after last night. Knowing how to win and knowing how to take care of it – tonight, we took care of business and it’s a huge confidence-builder.”

And it was the defense that led the way with both goals as welcomed sites as well as coming off slickly.

In taking a 1-0 lead 5:24 into the game, Witwer broke free down the left side and got to the back of the Chargers defense. He set up his sophomore brother, Robby, to finish in front and he did for a 1-0 lead.

“Roy’s good there and I knew he would,” Joh  Witwer said.

Chatfield, now 2-7, 0-4, responded less than 4 minutes into the second period to tie it, but Mullen immediately took a stand, capped by a low shot from the right point by sophomore defenseman Aidan Cashman off feeds from John Baird and Utah Bryant to retake the lead and keep it at 5:20 of the second.

“It was nice and low,” Brady said of Cashman’s shot.

Even though the Mustangs were outshot 32-19, including 24-12 over the final two periods, they flirted with adding a third goal multiple times, their defense remained solid and, as usual, junior goalie Connor Mahon was there when needed.

The game had no power-play scores – Mullen killed off all three against the Chargers – and the Mustangs also didn’t take the bait when the Chargers attempted to play a physical game.

“We kept our heads, which is another good thing to see,” Brady said. “Again, it’s another step in the right direction.”

Next for Mullen will be a game in yet another scheduling quirk on Saturday, Jan. 12, against – you guessed it – Chatfield at The Edge, 6:15 p.m.

 

MULLEN 2, CHATFIELD 1

Chatfield  0  1  0  --  1

Mullen  1  1  0  --  2

Mullen Scoring

First Period – Robby Witwer (John Witwer), 5:24.

Second Period – Aidan Cashman (John Baird, Utah Bryant), 5:20.

Power-play Opportunities – 0-for-5.

Penalties – 5 for 10 minutes.

Shots on Goal – 7-7-5  --  19

Saves – Connor Mahon, 31.

 

A 2nd late loss to the Rebels, this one 4-3

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – It happened again.

In their opener on Dec. 1, Mullen’s Mustangs blew a lead against Columbine heading into the third period.

On Friday night, the Mustangs again led the Rebels after two periods. However, they again fell, 4-3 in overtime at The Edge.

Which one-goal loss stung the most? Call it even.

“It sucks,” Mullen head coach Devon Brady said. “The same spot, both times up by a goal, we just … we’re close, we’re close. It’s these little ones like this that you need to fix.”

Mullen (4-2 overall), in dropping to 0-2 in the Highlands Conference and having its four-game winning streak halted, didn’t trail until the Rebels ended it on a goal with 1:36 to play in overtime. Mustangs junior goalie Connor Mahon didn’t have much of a chance when the Rebels’ Luke Juergensen, who had a medical scare in the first matchup when he collapsed on the bench, came in alone on a 4-on-4 and scored.

Certainly, Brady knew the Mustangs had three solid chances down the stretch after Columbine (3-5-1, 3-1-1) tied it at 3. But none of them clicked and the Rebels scored the game’s final three goals.

Mullen’s Riley Watters opened the scoring, 7:40 into the game on an assist by John Witwer. Nick Gilbert gave the lead back to the Mustangs with a score off another assist by Witwer, as he roofed one from the left side at 15:43.

Just 1:03 into the second, Robby Witwer made it 3-1 lead on John WItwer’s third assist and another from Utah Bryant.

But that was it for the Mullen scoring and Brady lamented being unable to get the lead to 4-1. Plus, Columbine, which outshot the Mustangs 43-25 (and 18-8 in the third period), scored with 11.2 seconds to play in the second to make it 3-2.

“You can’t give one up in the first minute of the period and the last one,” he said. “It took the momentum away and we came out flat in the third period, which was disappointing.”

Columbine also held the puck in its offensive end the majority of the time in the third period and the Mustangs were only 1-of-6 on the power play.

And there will be little time to reflect – they were to face Chatfield in another Highlands matchup in less than 24 hours, on Saturday, Jan. 5, at The Edge, 8:30 p.m.

“This is hockey,” Brady said. “We have to find a way. We’re right there, but we have to find a way to start putting teams away. It comes with experience and there’s nothing you can do to make up for experience.”

 

COLUMBINE 4, MULLEN 3 OT

Mullen  2  1  0  0  --  3

Columbine 1  1  1  1  -- 4

Mullen scoring

First Period -- Riley Watters (John Witwer), 4:40; Nick Gilbert (John Witwer), 15:43.

Second Period – Robby Witwer (John Witwer, Utah Bryant), 1:03.

Mullen Saves – Connor Mahon, 39.

Mullen Shots on Goal – 10-5-8-2 – 25

Mullen Penalties – 6 for 12 minutes.

 

Icemen climb to 4-1 before holiday break

An energized Mullen will head into the holiday break at 4-1 with a chance for its best mark in years.

Behind Robby Witwer’s hat trick, the Mustangs pounded Palmer 10-5 on Saturday in nonconference play at Sertich Arena in Colorado Springs.

After dropping their opener, the Mustangs have won four straight games, their best stretch since going 6-0-1 late in the 2012-13 season.

Witwer scored the final two goals of the first period as Mullen grabbed a 5-1 lead. The Mustangs basically traded goals with the Terrors the rest of the way and it was enough.

Nick Gilbert added two goals. Truman Boettiger, Utah Bryant, Eoin Canavan, Ian McDougall and Ashton Smaldone each had one. The Mustangs also piled up 11 assists. Again, Witwer and Gilbert were at the front with two apiece. Hunter Kear had two and John Baird, Coleman Guthrie, Bryant, Smaldone and Larry Simons also got into the act.

In goal, Dominic Maurais and Hunter Mahon handled and shared things with Maurais getting the victory.

Mullen was outshot 12-9 in the first period before taking a 34-20 advantage for the game.

The game also was relatively penalty-free – there were just five power-play opportunities.

Mullen will next be in action on Friday, Jan. 4., at The Edge against Columbine. The Rebels beat the Mustangs 3-2 in the opener.

--- Neil H. Devlin

 

After weekend sweep, ‘Stangs 3-1 on ice

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – Don’t look now, but … well … actually, go ahead and look. And take a good look.

Mullen ice hockey is above .500 for the first time since Dec. 2, 2014, when it downed Kent Denver 3-1 in the season opener. The Mustangs, now 3-1, also are a winning team for the first time in head coach Devon Brady’s tenure as his lead in a rebuilding process is beginning to pay dividends.

The Mustangs enjoyed a weekend sweep. On Friday, they rallied from a two-goal deficit to force overtime and win 3-2 over Castle View at Big Bear and on Saturday they popped first-year Colorado Academy 8-1 at the Edge.

Both were nonconference, both occurred differently and both are heartily welcomed.

“It’s awesome,” Brady said. “Again, we’re still not satisfied, it’s not good enough, but (Friday) night was huge for us. We just still need to get better.”

In a nutshell, here’s a 26-hour stretch for Mullen. The Mustangs fell behind after two periods to Castle View, but responded, an encouraging trait for a still-young team. However, Nick Gilbert brought the Mustangs within a goal and Utah Bryant tied it with 34 seconds remaining in regulation. Hunter Kear’s score in overtime won it.

The Mustangs were 2-1 and above the even line.

As for Saturday, it wasn’t much of a game. Despite starting slowly and having multiple players seeing significant action in an earlier junior-varsity game – Mullen is fielding a team on the lower level for the first time – the Mustangs didn’t get caught napping, led 3-1 after a period, 7-1 after two and cruised.

“Especially after last night,” Brady said, “if we would have done anything than how we played (Saturday), I would have bene stunned.”

Now, the Mustangs are getting to the point in which they expect to win.

“I think we have a lot to work on, but it’s always good to get a win like this,” sophomore Robby Witwer said on Saturday. “It’s huge for us.”

The Mustangs also have won three games in a row since the 2012-13 season.

“We’re a year older, a year more experienced and we learned last year that dropping one game can keep you out of the playoffs,” Witwer added.

Witwer scored Saturday’s first goal, his first of two. Ashton Smaldone also scored twice and Aidan Cashman, Larry Simons, Alex Hertlein and Bryant each had one. Regular goalie Connor Mahon won Friday’s game and Dominic Maurais earned Saturday’s victory between the pipes.

If there’s a particular area to keep an eye on, Brady said, it’s that seven of Saturday’s goals only had one assist and he would prefer more crisp puck movement as well as sharing.

Still, the early start is welcomed and could continue. The Mustangs will have one more game before the holiday break. They will take on host Palmer at Sertich Arena in Colorado Springs on Friday, Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m.

“If we could go into Christmas 4-1,” Witwer said, “that would be some energy.”

 

Mustangs erupt for 9-0 victory over Kadets

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON -- It was a blowout and they needed one.

Mullen’s Mustangs dominated Air Academy 9-0 in nonconference play on Friday night in front of another pretty packed and loud segment of The Edge Ice Arena.

The Mustangs levelled their record at 1-1 at the expense of the Kadets, who Mullen head coach Devon Brady called “young and in rebuild mode.”

He knows all about it, although he added that he “did not know the last time we had a shutout. We’re happy with it and we played well once we settled in after being a little sloppy early.”

Junior Connor Mahon again was sharp in goal, halting 23 shots, most notably a glove save that swiped a sure score in the third period.

But Mahon also finally enjoyed significant offensive support as eight Mustangs found the back of the net – two shorthanded and seven unassisted – and led by the two goals off the stick of sophomore Nick Gilbert.

Mullen began a bit slowly, yet still led 2-0 after the first period. They made it 7-0 after two and had the Kadets under the mercy rule and running clock in the third.

Freshman defenseman Truman Boettiger managed his first career goal on his first career shot 2 minutes, 57 seconds into the second period to make it 4-0 and the rout was on for a younger team that welcomed and needed it.

“It was pretty sweet; I got lucky, though,” Boettiger said. “It was good because now in the next game we’ll be better. We’re more confident.

“We had a much better week of practice than the first one. I think we can build on it and be better for the next game.”

Other Mustangs scorers – John Baird, Utah Bryant, Aidan Cashman, Hunter Kear, Ashton Smaldone and Rob Witwer. Bryant, Gilbert and Smaldone had assists.

The Mustangs also binged on 47 shots on goal.

“We’ll take it,” Brady said. “We have bigger fish to fry and we have to come back to work on Monday. We had a really good week of practice, too, and I think they had a little chip on their shoulders once it got away (in last week’s late loss to Columbine). We played like we expected to … we just needed to get some confidence and feel good about ourselves.”

A nonconference matchup for the Mustangs awaits, on Friday, Dec. 14, at Big Bear-North against Castle View. The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m.

 

MULLEN 9, AIR ACADEMY 0

Air Academy  0  0  0  --  0

Mullen   2  3  2  --  9

SCORING

First period – 1, Hunter Kear (Nick Gilbert, Ashton Smaldone), 5:16; 2, Nick Gilbert (unassisted), 13:19.

Second period – 3, Rob Witwer (unassisted), 1:57; 4, Truman Boettiger (unassisted), 2:57; 5, John Baird (Utah Bryant), 4:30; 6, Utah Bryant (unassisted), 8:19; 7, Aidan Cashman (unassisted), 10:29.

Third period – 8, Ashton Smaldone (unassisted), 1:19; 9, Nick Gilbert (unassisted), 8:50.

Penalties – Air Academy, two for 4 minutes; Mullen, five for 13 minutes.

Power plays – Air Academy 0-for-5; Mullen 0-for-2.

Shots on goal – Air Academy 8-5-10 – 23; Mullen 18-17-12 – 47.

 

Mustangs fall 3-2 on two 3rd-period goals

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – They’re a year older, there was a lot of excitement and they put forth an effort.

But it wasn’t quite good enough. Mullen gave up two goals in the third period and fell to Columbine 3-2 in the Highlands Conference on Saturday night in its season opener at a very crowded Edge Ice Arena.

“Our compete level was pretty good, but it’s not good enough for us anymore,” Mustangs head coach Devon Brady said. “We need to move on and take the next step. Tonight was a really good opportunity to do that.”

The Mustangs used goals by Ashton Smaldone and Robert Witwer to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the second period, but couldn’t answer down the stretch. All three of Columbine’s goals came on the power play, the last two in a 1 minute, 4-second stretch midway through the third period – one during a 5-minute penalty and another right off a face-off.

While junior goalie Connor Mahon was strong again, Brady said his roster, still dominated by underclassmen, has work to do.

“We weren’t consistent across the board, too many individual efforts and not enough puck movement side-to-side,” he said. “We didn’t win many battles.”

Mullen also was 0-of-9 on the power play.

The much-more experienced Rebels were coming off a 6-0 defeat the previous day against Denver East and Brady said “it makes a big difference getting a game under your belt. The nice thing is we can fix it. And we have that first game out of the way.”

The Mustangs were outshot 34-22 (only a combined nine over the first and third periods), a common occurrence the past season, but the gap was smaller and there were scoring chances – including hitting the crossbar twice, once with 35 seconds to play. Plus, Columbine had an earlier 2-on-none and didn’t score.

In addition, the game was stopped with 10:54 to play in the second period when Columbine’s Luke Juergensen, a junior, collapsed on the bench. After several anxious moments, he was able to stand up with help and make his to a gurney with paramedics taking him to a hospital. Afterward, Columbine staff said Juergensen suffered a seizure and they were on their way to the hospital to check on him.

As a result of the delay, there was no intermission between the final two periods.

Next up for Mullen: a nonconference matchup with Air Academy on Dec. 7, 8:30 p.m.

“I have expectations and losing sucks,” Brady said. “We didn’t know what we had, but today was a good look at that kind of stuff.”

 

COLUMBINE 3, MULLEN 2

Columbine  0  1  2  -- 3

Mullen    0  2  0  -- 2

Mullen goals

Second period – 1, Ashton Smaldone (John Witwer), 2;29; 2, Robert Witwer (Utah Bryant), 6:14.

Shots on goal – Columbine 10-11-13—34; Mullen 4-13-5—22.

Power plays – Columbine 3-of-4; Mullen 0-of-9.

Penalties – Columbine 9, Mullen 4.

.

WINTER PREVIEW ’18-19

Mustangs icemen older, wiser and won’t blink at the rink

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

(Note: First in a series of previews for the 2018-19 winter season.)

While it remains an uphill climb for Mullen ice hockey, the terrain is being negotiated, Mustangs numbers are on the rise and possibilities abound.

There will be 26 players in the 2018-19 program, thereby permitting a modified junior-varsity team, according to fourth-year head coach Devon Brady. And the Mustangs, 6-13 overall a season ago and 5-11 in the Highlands Conference, will be part of a new 36-team outlay, up two programs from 2017-18.

Having narrowly missed the 24-team playoff bracket the past season, the Mustangs are entertaining qualification as a prime goal as well as possibly recording their first winning season since ending 10-9-1 in 2012-13. Add the fact that only three players from the previous team were seniors, and just two of them earned any kind of ice time – 11 freshmen and six sophomores from a season ago return – and there’s an air of promise permeating the program.

“This year we could have a fun season,” Brady said. “We can go 15-4 or 4-15 or anywhere in between. It’s a matter of when we show up and how we compete.”

Of note, senior defenseman John Witwer is being counted on as a leader and probably will be sporting a ‘C’ on his jersey, signifying his status as captain, a very big deal for teams on the ice.

The team’s first line, all sophomores, will involve center Utah Bryant along with wingers Robbie Witwer and D’Evelyn- transfer John Baird. Plus, goalie Connor Mahon, so stout a year ago as a sophomore in attracting attention, has grown, Brady said, and should be even more of a wall.

The Mustangs, who will continue to play their home games at The Edge Ice Arena in the Southwest area, in Littleton, will again be in the Highlands group, this time along with Chatfield, Columbine, Denver East, Heritage and Kent Denver.

“I’m excited about it,” Brady said. “It was interesting how (state officials) aligned things, but it should be a good conference for us.”

The coach said Heritage “should be the front-runner,” but counts the Mustangs among others as challengers.

Ultimately, Brady said, coaches in the sport are working toward a two-classification system, particularly when considering how few teams there are in certain areas that make for a lack of balance in terms of drawing players.

However, no matter who the Mustangs play, Brady said, generating regular waves of goals will be the biggest key.

“Scoring? That’s the big question,” he said. “Our goaltending will be better and our defense should be good, but up front will be the question.”

Mullen will open on Saturday, Dec. 1, at The Edge at 6:15 p.m. against Columbine.

 

3-on-3 tourney win for ice hockey

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Last season, a very young and inexperienced Mullen narrowly missed Colorado’s ice hockey playoffs. The Mustangs had only two seniors on a roster dominated by sophomores and freshmen.

So when they ended 6-13 and out of the 24-team postseason bracket, the feeling was maturity, experience, patience and hard work would lift them to competitiveness.

Some of it happened recently.

The Mustangs won a 3-on-3 summer championship in the Tier II Midget at the Ice Ranch in Littleton. They were 8-2 in the regular season, top seed in the playoffs, 3-0 in the postseason and a 6-5 winner in the final.

No, it’s not full teams in a sanctioned season, but definitely a steo toward improvement for 2018-19.

 “It’s a great way for our players to get a pond-hockey-style feel for the game with no checking and very few whistles, and penalty shots instead of 2-minute penalties,” Mullen head coach Devon Brady said. “The win really showed our depth that we will be relying on to be successful this upcoming season.”

Interesting point – it was a rather loose gathering throughout the summer, although a higher number of Mustangs contributed, almost all of them returnees. John Baird, Zach Banko, Utah Bryant, Eoin Canavan, Nick Gilbert, Alex Hertlein, Ian MacDougall, Connor Mahon, Ben McManus, Amos Mills, Peter Osborn, Larry Simmons, Ashton Smaldone, Riley Walters and Rob Witwer each contributed.

“We can’t be about one player to be successful, but will need everyone to contribute,” Brady said of next season.

 

Mustangs fall in OT, 4-3 to Rampart

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – It’s over … probably. And it was a tough way to go.

Mullen gave up an odd-man rush into overtime on Wednesday and took a hard-fought 4-3 loss to visiting Rampart at the Edge ice Arena.

The setback all but officially eliminated the Mustangs from the 24-team playoff bracket that is to be released on Sunday. It dropped them to 6-13 overall, 5-11 in the Highlands Conference. They were 25th in RPI playoff qualifying entering the game.

“A couple things would have had to happen,” a disappointed Mullen head coach Devon Brady said of potentially qualifying for the playoffs. “They’re saying we have a chance, but it’s slim.”

Ultimately, the Rams, now 12-6-1, 10-5-1, and third in conference behind Valor Christian and Pueblo County, scored on a textbook 2-on-1 opportunity. One minute, 33 seconds into the extra session, Clayton Gilmore got one past Mustangs goalie Connor Mahon, who again was stellar. But on this one, Mahon had little chance of stopping it.

“It was great execution,” Brady said of Rampart’s rush. “If you’re going to lose on a goal, that was the one.”

Mullen had taken its only lead in the back-and-forth contest on senior Matt Byerly’s score 31 seconds (from Robert Witwer) into the third period to make it 3-2. However, the Rams tied it at 5:10.

Earlier, Nick Gilbert, assisted by Richie Connell, scored for the Mustangs in the first period and Utah Bryant made it 2-2 in the second on a slick short-hander.

This one didn’t lack for action. Up and down the ice they went, Mullen killed off a 5-on-3 disadvantage and both teams had chances, although Rampart outshot the Mustangs 38-22. But Mahon kept the Rams at bay and gave up few rebounds.

“He ate a lot,” Brady said. “And he played a good game.”

Should that be it for the season for the Mustangs, they will lose only three seniors, although Byerly – he scored 23 of the team’s 59 goals – will be difficult to replace.

“That sucks,” Brady said of losing the team’s best player. “We lose a couple more, but then you take these 15 freshmen and turn them into sophomores. It’s promising, awesome and exciting what they’ve done.”

Brady said the core of the team will play in spring and fall leagues, perhaps some 3-on-3 in the summer.

A program that won all of one game in the previous season is taking the necessary steps to improve.

“We lost to this team (Rampart) 6-2 to start the (conference) season, so we’re making strides,” he said.. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

 

RAMPART 4, MULLEN 3 OT

Rampart  1  1  1  1  -- 4

Mullen      1  1  1  0  -- 3

SCORING

FIRST PERIOD

1, Rampart, Montoya (Dudevoir, Leppo), 0:23; Mullen, Nick Gilbert (Richie Connell), 11:34.

SECOND PERIOD

3, Rampart, Montoya (Gilmore, Sykes), 0:45; 4, Mullen, Utah Bryant, SH, 14:41.

THIRD PERIOD

5, Mullen, Matt  Byerly (Robert Witwer), 0:31; 6, Rampart, Sykes (Montoya), 5:10.

OVERTIME

7, Rampart, Gilmore (Martinaitis, Sykes), 1:33.

Shots on goal – Rampart 4-17-16-1 – 38; Mullen 7-8-6-1 – 22.

Rink-wide news – Mustangs dominate Palmer 9-2

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

COLORADO SPRINGS – Mullen spotted Palmer an early lead, then blitzed the Terrors 9-2 on Monday in Highlands Conference play behind a wave of contributions and led by a four-goal performance by senior Matt Byerly.

Competing at Sertich Arena, the Mustangs, who had their home game against Rampart at the Edge on Saturday night postponed because of the snowstorm, are now 6-12 overall, 5-10 in conference. They have won two games in a row and three of their past four.

After the Terrors (1-17, 1-14) scored 3 minutes, 47 seconds into the game, Mullen’s Utah Bryant tied it 8:50 off assists from John Witwer and Hunter Kear, then took the lead on the first two scores by Byerly, both off feeds from John Witwer.

Palmer climbed to within a goal early in the second period, but Mullen’s four-goal barrage all but sealed it. Two goals by Byerly and one each from Bryant and Robert Witwer made it 7-2 entering the final 17 minutes.

Kear added a third-period goal and Richie Connell scored the first of his career.

Zach Banko had two assists in the second period, and Alex Hertlein, Ashton Smaldone and Riley Watters each contributed one. Byerly’s final goal was shorthanded. Robert Witwer’s score came on a power play. Smaldone added a second assist in the third period and Bryant contributed an assist for his third point.

Connor Mahon had his usual strong game in goal, recording 32 saves.

The regular season is slated to end on Saturday, Feb. 17, and the playoff bracket will be released on Feb. 18, but the Mustangs also await the rescheduling of the Rampart game.

Considerable opportunity for Mullen improvement remains – it won only one game the past season

 

MULLEN 9, PALMER 2

Mullen 3  4  2  --  9

Palmer 1  1  0  --  2

SCORING

FIRST PERIOD

1. Palmer, 3:47; 2. Mullen, Utah Bryant (John Witwer, Hunter Kear), 8;50; 3. Mullen, Matt Byerly (Robert Witwer), 12:08; 4. Mullen, Bylerly (Robert Witwer), 16:48.

SECOND PERIOD

6. Palmer, 3:56. 6. Robert Witwer, pp (Alex Hertlein, Zach Banko), 5:23; 7. Mullen,  Byerly (Banko), 5:53; 8. Mullen, Bryant (Ashton Smaldone, Riley Watters), 6:21; 9. Mullen, Bryant (unassisted), 12:52.

THIRD PERIOD

10. Mullen, Kear (Bryant, Smaldone), 8:12; 11. Mullen, Richie Connell (unassisted), 16:14.

Mustangs’ ice capades – 7-1 over the Terrors

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Matt Byerly and Nick Gilbert got Mullen off to a quick start and the Mustangs went on to a 7-1 romp over Palmer on Saturday night at the Edge.

The Mustangs improved to 5-12 overall, 4-10 in the Highlands Conference. The Terrors are 1-14, 1-12.

Both Byerly and Gilbert finished with two goals and there was contrast – Byerly, one of the few seniors on the team, is the Mustangs’ leading scorer with 18 goals and Gilbert, one of multiple freshmen, got his first two of the season. Byerly scored 44 seconds into the game and Gilbert at 3:17.

Byerly added his second goal after the Terrors had cut the Mullen lead to 2-1, at 9:15, and Robert Witwer made it 4-1 at 15:32, his third point of the period.

John Witwer moved it to 5-1 in the second period, and Gilbert and Ashton Smaldone added scores in the third period.

In addition, Mullen’s Sarah Watler had her first points of the season, getting two assists; Gilbert added an assist; Utah Bryant, back from a concussion, had an assist; John Witwer grouped an assist with his goal; Riley Watters had two assists; and Larry Simmons had an assist.

Goalie Dominic Maurais recorded his first victory, stopping 16 of 17 shots.

In all, Mullen had 40 shots on goal, 16 in the first period.

The Mustangs won’t play again until Saturday, Feb. 10, against Rampart, 6:15 p.m., at the Edge. They will finish the regular season on Feb. 12 in Colorado Springs against Palmer.

Mustangs drop one-goal game to Castle View

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

It wasn’t what Mullen coach Devon Brady had hoped for … or expected.

Less than 24 hours after earning a hard-fought home victory over Coronado in which the Mustangs worked through some issues, they dropped a 4-3 decision to Castle View at Big Bear Ice Arena.

Truth was, Mullen appeared a little lazy.

“That’s a good word,” Brady said. “So is complacent. We just talked about it. The last time we played these guys, we lost 6-1. It wasn’t a step in the wrong direction, but it just wasn’t enough of a step forward.”

True. The Mustangs, now 4-12 overall and 3-10 in the Highlands Conference, had to deal with getting outshot 42-12, entered the third period tied at 2 and were able to stay within range of the SaberCats (7-7, 7-5).

However, once again they struggled while having a 5-minute power play, gave up two goals down the stretch – one shorthanded – and even a terrific play from a faceoff in which the Mustangs got the puck to the point and John Witwer unleashed a sharp, low shot that was tipped in by Zach Banko with 17.3 seconds to play wasn’t enough.

The Mustangs also were down a couple of key players on their power play, notably Utah Bryant, out with a hip problem and going through concussion protocol.

Still, Larry Simons opened the scoring for Mullen in the first period and captain Matt Byerly scored in the second, his sixth goal over five periods. Riley Watters, Nick Gilbert and Ashton Smaldone added assists.

Freshman goalie Connor Mahon again played well.

The Mustangs, who dropped to 26th in the postseason rankings – 24 will advance – have three games to go with a shot to play extra ice hockey. The first will be Saturday, Feb. 3, against Palmer at the Edge, 6:15 p.m.

“We have to keep moving forward,” Brady said.

 

Byerly, resilient Mustangs overcome Coronado

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

It was back and forth like a pendulum, a tester in every way and a chance for Mullen to get even with Coronado, which won handily a couple of days ago.

So the Mustangs’ 6-4 victory over the Cougars on Friday afternoon at the Edge Ice Arena was rewarding in multiple ways.

It moved the Mustangs to 4-11 overall, 3-9 in the Highlands Conference, featured a five-goal performance by senior Matt Byerly and probably gave Mullen a much-needed boost down the stretch of the regular season.

“It was not the prettiest of games,” Mullen head coach Devon Brady said. “The resilience was great and the fact that we could get the win and may not be playing our best hockey, I think it speaks to where we are.”

The Mustangs, still in the reloading stage as a program, nevertheless realize that the rest of their schedule for the regular season won’t include the high end of the conference. So, yes, they can smell some victories.

However, their 6-1 setback on Wednesday in Colorado Springs to the Cougars was another sobering fact for a team with double-figure freshmen.

“We were due for a regression, so to speak, and I didn’t realize it would be that bad,” Brady said. “And it it was bad. But for them to bounce back today was great.”

Coronado, now 5-8, 4-8, actually held a one-goal lead four different times, including in the third period, despite being whistled for eight penalties to the Mustangs’ one. However, Byerly finished by scoring a natural hat trick in the final period, notably a nifty power-play goal to tie it at 4 at 9:21. He came in from the left side and so deftly bounced it off the back of Cougars goalie Chris Kelly that even the referees took a few seconds to call it a goal.

Byerly’s game-winner came at 14:59 off nice passing by Robert Witwer and Amos Mills. And Byerly sealed it inside the final minute on an empty-netter near the Coronado blue line.

“Hard work,” is what Byerly said of his scoring binge. “There were a couple of assists by the Witwer boys (Robert and John) and when you get set up like that it’s pretty easy to score.”

The Witwers set up Byerly’s first score for a 1-1 tie in the first period and Zach Banko assisted Byerly in the second to tie it at 2. Alex Hertlein’s power-play score at 4:04 of the third made it 3-3 (and was assisted by Eoin Canavan) to precede Byerly’s three-goal roll.

“It was good, we just kept pushing and I think we were all angry at what (the Cougars) did to us the last time,” Hertlein said.

Brady called Byerly “a good hockey player. He was not good on Wednesday, but for him to come back and overcome things … he was geared up for it.”

Mustangs goalie Connor Mahon was strong again, turning in 27 saves and standing tall when the Mustangs were caught in odd-man rushes and the defense broke down.

It’s the weekend, so the Mustangs will have another back-to-back – they will take on Castle View at Big Bear on Saturday, 2 p.m.

 

MULLEN 6, CORONADO 4

Coronado   1  2  1 – 4

Mullen        1  1  4 – 6

Mullen scoring

First Period – Matt Byerly (Robert Witer, John Witwer), 14:08.

Second Period – Byerly (Zach Bank), 4:16.

Third Period – Alex Hertlein PP, (Eoin Canavan), 4:08; Byerly PP, 9:21; Byerly (R. Witwer, Amos Mills), 14:58; Byerly, 16:14.

Ice hockey's salute to Sawyer Dow was uplifting

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

The scores really didn’t matter. But for the record, Mullen lost twice this weekend in ice hockey to powerful Pueblo County by 8-5 and 9-1, back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

What did matter, though, was the Mustangs and their community coming together to honor and remember a fallen classmate, Sawyer Dow, a senior who thrived on adrenaline through rock climbing and died on Jan. 12.

In front of probably the biggest crowd to attend one of their ice hockey games, the Mustangs went back-and-forth with the Hornets, who are now 11-1 overall and 10-0 in the Highlands Conference, and even tied it at 5 in the closing minutes on Friday at a rowdy Edge Ice Arena. However, the Hornets retook the lead with less than 3 minutes to play and added a couple of empty-netters to finish it.

Despite being outshot 60-35, the Mustangs rode big game by the Witwers, John and Robert, Matt Byerly and goalie Connor Mahon. Still, it wasn’t enough and on Saturday, the Hornets won easily in Pueblo by 9-1.

Mullen’s record dropped to 3-10, 2-8, and there were a lot of exhausted Mustangs by Saturday evening, but their ability to honor one of their own, accept support from a community that’s willing to give it and step up their game to feed off their following was practically immeasurable. Plus, even in a testy, physical game, Pueblo County twice joined the Mustangs in prayer, hugs and handshakes in a high-end display of sportsmanship.

Kids got to be kids, but also acted mature beyond their years. It was as accomplished as it was moving.

“I loved the effort,” Mullen head coach Devon Brady said. “We’re starting to play very good hockey … and there were a lot of really good things going for us. I’m extremely proud of my players.”

Zach Banko, a Mullen sophomore defenseman, said “it was a tough battle, very aggressive and we hung in there. Yeah, we love the support from fans and parents. It helped us play for Sawyer. We just dug deep and thought about what Sawyer would do … and we fought for him.”

The large group at the arena joined in a moment of silence, some prayer, pizza and traded stories. And the freshman-based Mustangs against the senior-dominated Hornets provided more than enough entertainment.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter if you were an adult or student, the theme remained the same.

“I came just to remember Sawyer,” Mustangs freshman Thomas Hicks said. “I hadn’t seen a game yet and thought this one would be the best ... and I thought it was just great sportsmanship.”

Another Mullen freshman, Sophie Hollingsworth, who said she has a lot of friends on the Mullen team, enjoyed the well-meaning gestures by the Hornets as “I thought that was really cool and really nice of them to share with us in the community. It was really good.”

Said Brady: “Our guys were well aware of what was happening and they gave the effort.”

 

Mustangs erupt, spank Woodland Park 9-0

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

In its best game and easily its most-decisive victory of the season, Mullen blitzed host Woodland Park 9-0 on Tuesday.

Competing at Honnen Ice Rink on the campus of Colorado College, the Mustangs upped their overall mark to 3-8, 2-6 in the Highlands Conference. It also was a far cry from the first meeting between the two teams, on Jan. 8, when the Mustangs won 4-1 and coach Devon Brady was highly critical of his team for playing selfishly as well as taking several unnecessary penalties.

Senior Matt Byerly led Mullen with four goals. Utah Bryant, Hunter Kear, Amos Mills, Ashton Smaldone and John Witwer also found the back of the net as a previously goal-challenged team suddenly turned into a scoring machine. Robert Witwer had four assists. Bryant added three and Smaldone two. Kear, Ben McManus and John Witwer also contributed assists as did freshman goalie Connor Mahon, who also stopped 31 shots for his first shutout.

Mullen was able to squeeze off 37 shots, 17 in the first period in taking a 3-0 lead. It was 7-0 after two periods.

Next for Mullen is a back-to-back in the Highlands against the Pueblo County Hornets, Friday, 8:30 p.m., at home at the Edge, then Saturday, 2:30 p.m., at Pueblo Plaza Ice Arena.

Woodland Park, which was coming off its first victory, 5-2 over Palmer’s Terrors, is 1-11, 1-10.

Valor rocks Mustangs again by 10-0

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

For the second time in nine days, Mullen lost to Valor Christian 10-0.

On Saturday, the visiting Mustangs went down to the Eagles at the Ice Ranch. And on Jan. 3, they lost at home to Valor at the Edge by the same score.

Both setbacks were in the Highlands Conference. Mullen dropped to 2-8 overall, 1-6 in conference. Valor improved to 9-1, 9-0.

The Mustangs, who have scored a conference-low 10 goals and scored just twice in its past five outings, were hit for 58 shots and two of the goals were short-handed.

Mullen will have three games this week. On Tuesday, the Mustangs will be on the road against Woodland Park. 5:30 p.m., at Honnen Ice Arena. Next will be two meetings against Pueblo County’s Hornets – on Friday, 8:30 p.m., at the Edge and Saturday, 2:30 p.m., at Sertich Ice Arena.

Mullen’s 2nd victory comes with trying end

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – Don’t get them wrong, it was a victory, just their second all season and first in conference. They certainly welcomed the two points. They were able to skate more freely and stick-handle as every stride wasn’t impeded by someone bigger, faster and stronger. And their goalie didn’t have to serve as a target on a firing range.

But the Mullen Mustangs’ 4-1 decision of visiting and first-year Woodland Park on Monday at the Edge Ice Arena came with a bit of an asterisk.

Sure, it improved the young team’s overall mark to 2-7 and gave them their first Highlands Conference victory (against five losses).

But afterward they knew they probably should have won even more easily. Definitely needed to stay out of the penalty box down the stretch. Without question needed to play more unselfishly. And not get goaded into losing their composure.

“Yeah,” Mustangs head coach Devon Brady said, “we had to have a bit of a conversation in the locker room about it. We’re learning how to win. And that said, we take the two points, but especially for the last 10 minutes, we took bad penalties, made selfish plays … instead, we had to grind it out.”

True, Mullen, after getting waxed by a combined 19-0 by powers Regis Jesuit and Valor Christian, knew the Panthers (0-10, 0-9) were an entirely different foe. It showed in the first period as Matt Byerly scored 24 seconds into the game and Utah Bryant made it 2-0 at 1:40.

However, the Mustangs were slowed to just one goal in the second period by Byerly. They missed several chances, although Bryant scored his second goal 5:25 into the third period.

And here’s where it started to really go wrong – Mullen was whistled for six of its 10 infractions, was outshot 19-11 and rugged freshman goalie Connor Mahon, who faced 127 shots the past two games before having to stop a measly 10 over the first two periods, suddenly was taxed … again.

“Garbage, selfish penalties, but it’s all a part of the process,” Brady said. “I knew this would be difficult, this is what it feels like.”

Said Byerly, the team captain who was angry with himself on a tripping penalty in the final minutes: “We played all right. It was a chippy game and our emotions got the best of us. It happens.

“We didn’t play as a team. We had a lot of one-on-one stuff.”

Mahon agreed, but added: “We still got the win, got the two points. We’ll get better.”

Robert Witwer had two assists for the Mustangs. John Witwer and Richie Connell also assisted.

Mullen next plays on Saturday against Valor Christian, a conference game at 8:30 p.m. at the Ice Ranch.

Brady reiterated that his team is young and learning, but will be looking for some improvement, including mentally.

“We’re finally healthy which is good,” Brady said. “I feel good, but that last 10 minutes … we just need to grow up. We have to be above (taking the bait from the opposition). It wasn’t 10-0, not 6-1, so we had a lot to protect and the frustrating part was there are a lot of guys we wanted to get into the game.

“The growth is retarded a bit, but we’ll take the two points.”

 

MULLEN 4, WOODLAND PARK 1

Woodland Park 0  0  1 -- 1

Mullen              2  1  1 -- 4

SCORING

FIRST PERIOD

1, Mullen, Byerly (unassisted), 0:24. 2, Mullen, Bryant (R. Witwer, Connell), 1:40.

SECOND PERIOD

3, Mullen, Byerly (R. Witwer), 10:06.

THIRD PERIOD

4, Mullen, Bryant (J. Witwer), 5:25. 5, Woodland Park, Parker (Levy), PP, 7:40.

SHOTS

Woodland Park 4-6-19—29

Mullen 13-14-11—36

SAVES

Mahon, Mullen, 28

 

Regis Jesuit dominates Mustangs 9-0

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

ENGLEWOOD – Some lessons to be learned are labeled as hard. At the moment, Mullen’s lessons appear to be as tough as the diamond variety.

A couple of days after getting walloped by Valor Christian, the Mustangs had it happen again against Regis Jesuit, nearly in the exact same fashion. On Friday evening, Mullen was easily handled 9-0 in nonconference by Regis Jesuit at Family Sports Center after getting pinned 10-0 by Valor Christian.

Indeed, the Mustangs knew it was coming for two reasons: 1. Their roster is dominated by freshman; and 2. Regis Jesuit and Valor Christian are two of the top programs in Colorado, loaded with top upperclassmen.

“Any time you play basically the first or second team or two in the top four, you have those expectations,” Mustangs third-year head coach Devon Brady said of being overmatched..

However, he added, “if you’re going to lace up the skates, you have to make sure you’re getting something out of it. And you can get a lot out of this.”

Now 1-7 and loser of six consecutive games, Mullen had the opportunity to deal with all sorts of hockey adversity.

“So our big question,” Brady said, “being young, is ‘Can you take something from this?’ If not, what’s the point of doing it?”

As it was, Regis Jesuit, now 8-0 and a regular state challenger, did whatever it wanted to do. The Raiders outshot Mullen 60-6, led 4-0 after a period and was never seriously challenged. In fact, the Raiders seemed to be in the Mullen zone for at least 40 of the game’s 51 minutes.

“Easily,” Brady said.

Mullen also was outskated and out-stick-handled, but freshman goalie Connor Mehan isn’t complaining. In fact, he hasn’t minded one bit.

“I like it. It’s fun. I get to see a lot of shots and have a chance to get better,” he said. “That was a goal going into this game, just to get better and I faced a lot of shots.”

Said Brady: “He’s a gamer. We know that and we need to realize we can play a game 30 minutes in our zone, but come away successful ... our goal is to be a Regis or Valor. I think we’re headed in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. (The Mustangs) have to deal with it.”

Next for Mullen is a Monday (2:30 p.m.) home game (at the Edge in Littleton) against winless Woodland Park, a first-year program that is to face Rampart Saturday and has been outscored 74-8 (Mullen has been outscored 45-11). It will be a Highlands Conference game.

“You know, it’s a must-win for us, a big game for our program,” Brady said. “It’s a step we need to take. Hopefully, we come out with some confidence and swagger.”

Valor rolls Mustangs 10-0 at the Edge

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

It was to be a demanding week for Mullen ice hockey in returning from the holiday break and it began roughly – the Mustangs were outclassed on Wednesday, losing 10-0 to Valor Christian in Highlands Conference play at the Edge-East.

Mullen dropped to 1-6 overall, 0-5 in conference. Valor Christian is 7-1 and remains in command of the Highlands at 7-0.

The Eagles’ dominance started early and often. They piled up 67 shots on goal for the game, 53 over the first two periods. Mullen managed only 14 shots on goal.

Valor led 3-0 after the first period, 7-0 after two. It scored short-handed, even-strength and power-play goals.

Tim DeBord had a hat trick for Valor, all in the second period and it included two short-handed scores.

Valor’s lone loss was to Regis Jesuit, which next hosts the Mustangs on Friday, 5:40 p.m., at Family Sports Center-Hamilton.

Mustangs drop 2 in Gunnison, fall to 1-5

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

A two-game road trip last week came with two losses and facing a combined 109 shots.

Mullen fell twice to Crested Butte, 3-1 on Saturday and 5-2 on Friday at the Jorgenson Ice Rink in Gunnison. The Mustangs are 1-5 overall heading into the holiday break, 0-4 in the Highlands Conference. The Titans are 5-0 conference and overall, top the Highlands and were 12-6 in 2016-17, their first season.

In Friday night’s opener, Mullen trailed 2-0 after a period, tied it at 2 after two on even-strength goals by Ashton Smaldone (unassisted) and Robert Witwer (Richie Connell, Amos Mills), then didn’t answer the Titans’ three-goal barrage.

Even with Crested Butte’s 0-for-4 showing on power plays, it outshot the Mustangs 53-21 and had 43 (21-22) after two periods.

As for Saturday afternoon’s cap to the back-to-back, it was chippy (25 penalties, 13 by Mullen), although the Titans were 0-for-8 on the power play, the Mustangs 1-for-10. Mullen again fell behind 2-0, but on Banko’s extra-man score (assisted by Witwer), got within a goal into the final minutes. Crested Butte’s goal at 16:09 of the third sealed it.

Regular starter Connor Mahon handled the first game in goal for Mullen; Dominic Maurais was given a start in Game 2 and faced 56 shots.      

The Mustangs won’t play again until after the holidays and their first two meetings will be high end --  Jan. 3, 2:30 p.m., at home at the Edge-East against Valor Christian and Jan. 5, 5:40 p.m., on the road versus Regis Jesuit at Family Sports Center-Hamilton.

Mullen listless in 6-1 whipping against Castle View

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – It was, in a word from Mullen head coach Devon Brady, ”awful.” And he didn’t mind stating it or repeating it.

On Monday afternoon, the Mustangs appeared listless in taking a 6-1 home beating at the hands of Castle View at the Edge Ice Arena. A chance to establish themselves in the early season as more than a walk-over as they were a year ago was squandered.

“We were awful. We were awful,” Brady said. “I don’t know how you can’t get up for a (Highlands) Conference game. That’s a big game for us. That was bad. All facets … other than goaltending. (Numbers) 1 through 31 (his skaters) didn’t happen.”

It would be difficult to disagree or argue with him. Mullen, now 1-3 overall and 0-2 in conference, was hit for an unusually high 74 shots, notably 28 in the opening period. But this one went beyond numbers, the coach said – Mullen was consistently beaten to loose packs, didn’t pass well, received them even worse, was at least a stride slow on defense all game while also displaying questionable passing and generated only brief offense.

In addition, the Mustangs, who gave up two gials in each period, twice had 5-minute power plays and failed to score. Their odd-man rushes were regularly thwarted by the SaberCats and a couple of break-away chances weren’t finished.

Mullen got within 4-1 seconds into the third period on an even-strength goal by Ashton Smaldone and assisted by Utah Bryant, but instead of building on it and at least making the SaberCats sweat, additional pressure never occurred and Castle View responded by scoring twice shorthanded.

In addition, Mustangs top player Matt Byerly left in the third period with a misconduct penalty and Castle View had an assistant coach and player ejected in a game that certainly had its chippy moments.

“We didn’t get a bounce, but when you don’t move your feet, you don’t deserve it,” Brady said. “It comes down to effort and attitude, and we lost both of those departments today. We’re a young team and, really, adversity is a part of it and we have to overcome it.”

Mustangs goalie Connor Mahan did all he could to keep the Castle View scoring from reaching double figures, said he doesn’t mind facing a lot of shots and called the SaberCats “pretty good.”

And Brady, like the majority of Mustangs, said he “didn’t see this coming.”

Mullen next will hit the road and head into the Mountains – it will be a two-game set in Gunnison at Jorgensen Arena vs. the new Crested Butte, 6 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday.

Brady said the trip should be good for his players and include “time to reflect.”

A thriller on ice – Mustangs win 3-2 in OT

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

LITTLETON – There was so much going on during Mullen’s rousing 3-2 overtime victory over Chatfield in nonleague at a very loud Edge Ice Arena on Friday night that it was almost too difficult to follow.

But the following is an attempt:

Mullen moved to 1-1 early in the season and matched its victory total from a year ago. Chatfield dipped to 2-2. “I’m excited to see where we’re at,” Mustangs head coach Devon Brady said. “I knew this would be a good matchup for us.”

Senior center Matt Byerly scored the game-winner 3 minutes, 5 seconds into the extra session, which is a new aspect of prep play this season (OT is sudden death in 5 minutes). He battled on the faceoff inside his scoring zone, gained control, fired from the right side, then followed up his rebound by connecting high to roof one and set off a welcomed celebration for an inexperienced Mustangs group. “The whole game was fun and probably was the best of my career,” he said.

Both goalies – Mullen’s Connor Mahon and Chatfield’s Kenneth Reisbeck – almost literally lived the famous hockey-ism, standing on their heads. There were a combined 105 shots. Yes, 105. In fact, Mullen had all seven shots in OT and kept pressuring the Chargers after Mahon repeatedly bailed out the Mustangs in front of a strong showing in the stands. “It’s really uplifting and I haven’t seen this many people at the game,” Mahon said.

Mullen received performances in waves and from just about every area. “We got a lot of guys in and our third and fourth lines saw ice, which was nice for us,” Brady said.

Back and forth they went throughout as Chatfield led 1-0 after two periods, then 2-0 with 14:34 to play in regulation. However, Mullen got one back at 5:02 of the third on the power play as freshman Utah Bryant got one past Reisbeck off an assist from sophomore Zach Banko, then tied it with another player advantage about 3 minutes later on a score by sophomore Alex Hertlein from Byerly.

Each team enjoyed odd-man rushes, significant chances out front and end-to-end play. The crowd was into it on both sides – it’s also Chatfield’s home ice – and the defense was real with an assortment of smart plays and checks.

“Our sticks were in lanes and we did a real nice job with bodies,” Brady said. “I’m extremely pleased with the effort ... we had some chances early and didn’t necessarily put the puck in the back of the net, but, again, I’m pleased with the effort.”

Said Byerly: “The crowd was with us right there at the end and we had the role players do what they do. It was really fun.”

And what did Mullen receive for its performance? The game ended close to 11 p.m. and Mustangs players had to report to school in less than seven hours for the bus ride to Colorado Springs for a road game against Rampart at Sertich Arena.

“Yes, a quick turn-around,” Brady said.

It resulted in a 6-2 loss to the Rams. Rampart led 3-0 after a period and 5-0 after two.

Mullen was outshot badly, 48-17, and it was its first Highlands Conference game. Mullen dropped to 1-2 overall. Rampart is 2-1, 1-0.

Mahon played two periods and was hit for five goals on 33 shots. Dominic Maurus gave up the other and made 14 saves.

For scoring, Banko assisted on both – power-play goals by Byerly and John Witwer.

Mullen next will host Castle View on Monday, 2:30 p.m., at the Edge in Highlands play.

 

Mustangs fall 5-2 in opener to Denver East

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

If growing up is hard to do, then Mullen is staring at a difficult stretch.

Then again, the Mustangs know what’s in front of them.

Armed with 12 freshmen on the roster, they opened their season on Saturday night with a 5-2 setback to Denver East at the Edge Ice Arena. Inexperience and younger players mean it will be a learning period for Mullen, but it’s confident the curve is reasonable.

“It was all right,” Mustangs head coach Devon Brady said. “We’ve got 12 freshmen and it was Game 1, so there will be some growing pains. All things considered, I hate losing, but I think we have a good foundation and it was better than I expected.”

The Mustangs, 1-17 a year ago, were hit for two goals in the first period and fell behind 3-0 before sophomore Alex Hertlein scored with 10:19 to play.

However, the Angels put together two scores within a minute and the Mustangs’ only answer was a later goal by Rob Witwer.

Still, it’s enough to keep Brady’s interest on the rise.

“We have to stay out of the penalty box and clean up our defensive zone, but we have 12 freshmen and it will happen,” the coach said. “We were a little slow to start, a little deer in the headlights, but, again, half of our roster was playing in its first high-school game.”

Sophomore goalie Connor Mahon also contributed heavily – he faced a whopping 60 shots.

“He likes seeing a lot of rubber,” Brady said.

And of his team’s effort, Brady said “I’d give it a good B.”

Mullen will next see action on Friday, Dec. 8, when it will host Chatfield at the Edge.

Ice is nice – Mullen player numbers on the rise

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Color Mullen head coach Devon Brady relieved.

“This is the first year that I’ve been here that I was not concerned whether or not we would have a program because of numbers,” the third-year head coach said.

He’s not kidding. A year ago, he said his Mustangs, already taking hits from graduation and not reloading the roster with underclassmen, also were getting thin through a rash of injuries. Brady pointed out the Mustangs were 1-16 and facing a season finale at Pueblo County.

The thing was, the Mustangs went down Interstate-25 with just eight skaters and a goalie, and hung in there before losing 9-4.

“Last year was hard,” Brady said.

However, now in his third season leading the Mustangs, Brady said 23 players are in the program “and we have 11 freshman and we’re definitely headed in the right direction. I’m really excited about it.”

Sophomore goalie Connor Mahon returns. So does senior and No. 2 scorer from 2016-17 Matt Byrley (seven goals, six assists), a forward Brady calls “hands down our best player.” There are also three defensemen back – senior Richie Connell, junior John Witwer and sophomore Zack Banko.

“Then a ton of freshman, so we’ll be young and small, but definitely headed in the right direction,” said Brady, who played defense for a bit at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.

The coach said a half-dozen victories isn’t out of the question for this season, nor is a potential playoff berth.

Mullen will open with a home game at the Edge Ice Arena against Denver East on Dec. 2 (9:30 p.m.). The Mustangs will have three games in four days (Dec. 8-11), including opening Highlands League play on Dec. 9 against Rampart, 9:15 p.m., at Sertich Arena.

The regular season will end on Feb. 17. And the state-playoff bracket will be released on Feb. 18.

Last season’s state champion was Monarch of Louisville.

 

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