WOODLAND PARK - With a steady snow falling, bundled-up spectators clinging tightly to cups of hot chocolate to keep warm, and sounds of sticks and pucks crackling under the lights on a frigid night, the landscape of Meadow Wood Sports Complex could have made quite the Norman Rockwell painting.
It's exactly what Ken Martel imagined when the Pine Creek coach got the wheels in motion to stage an outdoor hockey game in the Pikes Peak region
"I'd say this was a huge success," said Martel, moments after his Eagles fell to Lewis-Palmer 5-2 Saturday night as both teams remained on the ice to pose for family and team photos. "They'll remember this for the rest of their lives."
William Fraser's turnaround wrist shot highlighted a three-goal second period, helping the Rangers (14-1, 9-0 Peak Conference) overcome a slow start and win their 13th straight game.
Taylor Hill scored a power-play goal, Noah Vanderbeck added another off a turnover, and Ryan Reich put it out of reach with the third period's only goal.
"We've been in situations like that, where we fall behind teams that we should beat," Hill said. "We didn't panic, and in the second period, we just settled down and played our game."
Pine Creek (6-6-1, 3-4-1) took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, rallying after Julian Claudio gave Lewis-Palmer a quick tally just 2:31 into the game.
Zach Zimmerman tied it on a power-play wrist shot from a sharp angle, then Nathan Lucken scored on a breakaway not quite three minutes later.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, that finished their scoring as the Rangers reclaimed the momentum with a dominant second period.
"After the first period, we just wanted to keep that momentum going," Lucken said. "When we got down, we just tried to come out in the third period like it was a 0-0 game. We just couldn't get anything going."
The moderate snowfall during most of the first period turned the ice into a fluffy mess, slowing the puck to a standstill and keeping cleanup crews busy. At stoppages, volunteers and extra skaters grabbed shovels to uncover the lines.
The snow tapered off as the game progressed, and that seemed to help Lewis-Palmer's game, which is predicated on sharp passes.
"We're a quick, puck-moving team," Hill said. "The snow didn't help, but it was fun to play in this atmosphere, under the lights and outdoors."