Summit High School Hockey Team to go to State Finals!

Cody Jones/Summit Daily News
Summit celebrates after defeating Liberty High School, 4-3 in the state semifinal on Saturday, March 2.
Cody Jones/Summit Daily News

Despite entering the 2024 Class 4A state hockey tournament as the No. 10 seed — the last team to make the playoffs — the Summit High School boys hockey team is on a roll.

The Tigers first made history against No. 7 Colorado Academy on Thursday, Feb. 22, when the team managed to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade with a dominant win, 5-2.

With playoff momentum beginning to build, Summit then traveled to Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, Feb. 28, where the team once again made the history books by defeating No. 2 Steamboat Springs High School in double overtime to successfully advance to the semifinal match.

Summit entered its game against No. 3 Liberty High School of Colorado Springs on Saturday, March 2, eager to keep its playoff magic alive and advance to the state final.

With Highland Ranch’s South Suburban Sports Complex filled to the brim with fans adorned in the green colors of Summit and the red of Liberty, the state-final-clinching game quickly got underway with Summit charging down the ice, establishing possession and firing a wrist shot at the net.

The shot from the stick of junior Jevin Palmquist came as a shock to the Liberty Lancers’ goalie as it broke into the back of the net and gave Summit a 1-0 lead less than 50 seconds into the game.

Off to a strong start, the Tigers continued to pursue the net heavily while the Lancers tried to settle down and establish an offense. After several back-and-forth possessions, Liberty began pinning the puck into its offensive zone, but the team’s attempts at a goal were dashed by Summit’s defense.

At one point, Summit senior goalie Finn Schroder made two impressive glove saves that sucked the air out of Liberty. Buzzing on both ends of the ice, Summit expanded its lead to 2-0 when senior Luke Weir crept toward the goal and fired a shot into the net.

Skating circles around Liberty, Summit went into the first intermission leading 2-0.

“That’s always our game plan — is to set the tempo, play a 200-foot game,” head coach Chris Miller said.

Beginning the second period on a double-minor power play, Liberty swiftly set up its offense and began firing shots at Schroder. The Summit defense fought off several fiery shots, but a goal soon snuck its way in, bringing the score to 2-1.

Once fighting off the latter half of the penalty, Summit was able to reestablish possession of the puck for a minute or two, but it was not long before Liberty was back in front of the net. The Lancers were eventually rewarded with a second goal when senior Micah Newton put a shot behind Schroder, tying the game at 2-2 with the majority of the second period yet to be played.

Feeling the tide of the game begin to shift, the Tigers went on back-to-back, two-minute power plays where the team recorded a slew of shots on net before a tripping call led to a little over a minute of four-on-four hockey.

Back at full strength, the Tigers tried to score before the final intermission, but tough defense stopped them.

“We have been focused on this underdog mentality,” Miller said. “Halfway through the year, I made the kids watch “Kelce,” the documentary about this football guy, an undersized center who made a hall-of-fame career. Before the game I showed them a speech that he made before they won the Super Bowl, saying they shouldn’t be here or this guy isn’t good enough. I went back to that before the second and the third. We focused on that mindset that we need to go prove that we are willing to win.”

With the game tied, Summit and Liberty began the fresh period with the intensity turned to an all-time high. 

The ferocity eventually resulted in a penalty from Liberty, which led to a power-play goal after junior Carter Conroy fired a shot that was deflected into the net by sophomore Karston Kerr. 

In true playoff hockey fashion, Summit enjoyed its lead for a couple of minutes before Liberty senior Ethan Graber once again tied the game with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.

Both teams chased the puck up and down the ice, but each team’s defense played strong against the onslaught of quick-moving action. Summit even fought off a nail-biting, two-minute penalty to keep the score tied.

With everyone back on the ice, Summit fought through the Liberty defense, sent a pass in front of the net where Palmquist came up with the goal on the doorstep of the blue crease, putting Summit up 4-3.

The Palmquist goal electrified the Summit fans as the team realized it was four minutes away from the state final.

As the seconds slowly ticked off the clock, cheers from Summit rang down from the stands while the Tigers worked to get in front of shots and passes.

A minute ticked off, then two, then three before Liberty sent a final surge toward the net. Summit remained stoic though, leaning on its team culture, fighting off the advances and earning its spot in Tuesday’s state final game.

“Adversity is something that has to be experienced, not read about or watched,” Miller said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without losing those tight games or being in those tough moments. It takes time. Fortunately, we have hit our stride, and we have had enough adversity to understand that we have that poise and can handle that pressure.”

Summit will face No. 4 Durango High School in the state final game at Denver University’s Magness Arena on Tuesday, March 5, at 5 p.m. 

Like Steamboat Springs in the quarterfinal, Durango will be a familiar foe for the Tigers after playing them twice in Mountain league matchups throughout the regular season. Summit split its games against Durango earlier in the season, losing the first meeting, 5-2, and winning the second, 3-2.

This article was written by Cody Jones for Summit Daily News 

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