By Brandon Walker EBS COMMUNITY EDITOR
BIG SKY – The match began under heavy snowfall and it ended with a thrilling flurry of shootout goals—on Feb. 8, Big Sky locals took to the Town Center ice rink to mark the decade anniversary of the annual Pavelich Invitational hockey game.
The game features Big Sky community members divided into two teams, with one wearing the home reds of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, and the other donning the road white, in honor of former Stanley Cup champion and Big Sky resident Marty Pavelich.
The event has become a winter staple in Big Sky thanks to immense efforts from countless volunteers. “A lot of folks take skating here very seriously and put in a lot of work to make it happen and get a product for members and visitors of the community to enjoy a pretty high level of hockey,” said Joseph McFadden, a volunteer coach for BSSHA.
Spectators and players alike braved the weekend snowstorm to take part and enjoy the annual festivities. “In [this] weather … if you’re not skiing, you’re here,” said Jeff Trulen, a Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association board member representing the sport of curling. “It’s worth the effort for all the volunteers who put the rink together.”
Prior to the adults’ game the puck dropped at noon for the second annual kids’ match, with skaters ranging from ages 7 to 12, as a group of young skaters from Bozeman squared off against the youngsters from Big Sky. It was the first opportunity for the Bozeman group to partake in a full-ice contest and one of the few games that the Big Sky team participates in each year.
“I mean it is just great,” said McFadden, who also refereed the game. “The kids work pretty hard most evenings so to watch them apply the drills that they might think are useless at the time, is a pretty cool feeling.”
The Big Sky squad came out victorious 8-3, but the game was about much more than the result.
Russell “Elvis” Mitchell – Big Sky
EBS: Did you have fun?
EBS: What was it like to play out here in the snow, in front of everybody?
RM: It was really scary, but I had a lot of fun.
EBS: Did you score any goals?
RM: No, but I tried my best.
Nicklaus Vander Weit – Bozeman
EBS: Did you have fun?
EBS: What was your favorite part of today’s game?
NVW: That we got to play full-ice and it was our first time.
EBS: What was it like to play in front of everybody in the snow today?
NVW: Kind of weird.
The 10th annual Pavelich Invitational game did not disappoint either. From the second that former Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup champion Marty Pavelich strode to center ice to drop the puck, it was clear the game would be one for the ages.
Two local athletes, Alex Schwab of the white team and Brad Rierson of the red team, put on an impressive shooting display in the opening half, recording hat-tricks in the first of two 30-minute periods. Schwab and the white team held a slim 4-3 advantage as the teams entered intermission.
The second period was equally as competitive, with neither team gaining more than a two-goal lead at any point. The red team found themselves winning by a goal until the 1:38 mark of the game. That’s when Griffin Kilby of the white team carved his way through the defense before depositing a goal into the back of the net to knot the score at eight apiece and send the game to a dramatic shootout.
The shootout score was tied 2-2 as Adam Ducomb, the final skater, prepared for his attempt. Ducomb of the white team handled the puck confidently as he approached the net and fired home a well-placed wrist shot for the final goal of the shootout, lifting the white team to the thrilling victory.
It was the first shootout finale in the history of the Pavelich Invitational game. “I think it was one of the better games I’ve seen in a long time,” Trulen said. “I’ve never seen a shootout in Big Sky, so that was [the] cherry on top right there.”
The strong community turnout to support friends on a snowy Saturday afternoon proves that hockey is growing in Big Sky, much to the delight of BSSHA.
“There’s been talk about getting a new indoor rink so the kiddos could play more than four months out of the year, [but] the rink has been great and only gotten better,” McFadden said. “The evolution [since] the first year I started to help has been tenfold.”