The Butte Cobras split at 2022 Capstone Tournament | Hockey

BUTTE — Early season tournaments are field trips to help young teams bond and discover chemistry.

For the Butte Cobras, their trip to Edina, Minnesota, provided them the bonding time that they needed last weekend at the 2022 Capstone Invitational Tournament.

The Cobras finished 2-2 at the tournament, as the team was able to see some opponents that they normally do not see in NA3HL play during the season.

“Overall, I thought the weekend in Minnesota went pretty well,” Butte general manager/head coach Kirk Golden said via email. “We started off a bit slow, but improved every game. It was good to be able to see some other programs from other leagues, as well as in our own. There were some great players and teams out in Edina. We finished with a 2-2 record, and I was pleased with how our players responded to a couple losses.”

A young team will always have nerves at the beginning of a tournament. The Cobras were no different, as they played their opener with uneasiness.

“We had some first game jitters and didn’t play our best on Friday,” Golden said. “We kind of got away from playing our style of hockey. We forgot about the small things, and let our heads get a little distracted by what the other team was doing instead of just focusing on our game. The 4-0 loss (Isanti Outlaws) was a direct result of that.”

After two bad bounces early against Gillette, the Cobras went on the offensive against the Wild. However, Butte came up short in a 2-0 loss.

“We went down two after two bad bounces on the first two shifts,” Golden said. “We then outplayed and outshot Gillette for the remainder of the game. We just couldn’t put one in.”

However, when Butte became locked in against Hockey Lab, the goals came with alarming regularity.

“Our third game was when we finally started playing Butte Cobras hockey,” Golden said. “Our offense exploded for 12 goals, winning 12-1 over Hockey Lab, posting the largest amount of goals as well as largest victory by margin in the entire showcase. Our guys did the little things that made the big things happen. We were constantly moving and creating. It was a pleasure to watch the selflessness of our players moving the puck around.”

The Cobras finished their stay at the Capstone with a 2-1 win over the Great Falls Americans.

The Jr. The Jets out of Janesville, Wisconsin, defeated the Minnesota Blue Ox in the championship.

A great deal of the Cobras’ success in Minnesota came from the corps of Butte returning players.

“Returning players that stood out were forwards Nick Bradshaw, Cade Wessman, Luke Schleusner, Caelin Chinery, defenseman Carson Streich and goalie Braylon Rogers,” Golden said. “Our two goalies, Rogers and Nikolai Wallery, both played half of each game. After giving up two goals against in the first game, Rogers didn’t let another puck by him in the last three games of the Showcase. Patrick Crooks, Keith Des Jardins, Mike Girard, Drysten Bailey and Quinn Nichols all proved that they have been working hard over the offseason and look to be impact players this upcoming year. New defensemen Weston Villers and Anthony Johnson impressed throughout the weekend. Both displayed smooth skating abilities and made smart decisions with the puck. New forward Rye Vincent also had a good showing which included a highlight reel goal that ended with a well-placed post-and-in shot.”

With any early season action, there is a good deal of video analysis. For Golden, he will have the time to sort through the weekend’s action to formulate a plan for this upcoming season.

“I was able to get a great feel of our returning and incoming players over the weekend in Minnesota,” Golden said. “We, again, will have a wonderful group of high character players. I like our mix of veterans and rookies. There is typically a bit of an adjustment period for guys to adapt to the speed and physicality of junior hockey, but our guys looked great in just those four Capstone Showcase games. I am very optimistic for the season and I know our guys are chomping at the bit to get started.”


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