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AHS hockey opens playoffs tonight

Tim Mutrie

“Forty-five minutes – no alibis, no regrets.”

That’s the mantra of the Aspen High School Hockey team as it prepares for its state playoff debut in Colorado Springs tonight.

“We know we’ve got to come out and play three complete periods,” Aspen coach Brett Kurtz said yesterday. “If we don’t, our season’s over.”

Aspen High, which launched a hockey team for the first time ever this season, plays Palmer High School at the Sertich Ice Arena in Colorado Springs at 6:30 p.m.

The No. 2 team in the Colorado High School Hockey League, Aspen tied with No. 1 Liberty for the best record in league, at 11-2. Aspen’s head-to-head loss to Liberty, 5-1 on Dec. 15, dropped the Skier team into second in league standings, and into the second seed for the eight-team playoffs.

Palmer, the No. 7 team in league, finished the season at 6-6-1 – one of those losses coming at the hands of Aspen, 4-2, on Jan. 27.

Aspen finished its season two weeks ago yesterday with a win over Summit in Breckenridge. Since then, the team has been fine-tuning for the playoffs, which will be a first for AHS players.

“I’ve been told if we make it to the semifinals and finals, there will be big crowds on hand and they haven’t experienced that before,” said Kurtz, who played on Wisconsin’s 1990 National Championship team. “But we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. Palmer is our only focus now.”

Kurtz said the team has adopted the dictum – “45 minutes – no alibis, no regrets” – during the last two weeks of practice. When Aspen has faltered this year, he explained, it could be traced to specific lapses, both mental and physical.

“The guys made up wooden signs that say it,” Kurtz said. “They’re carrying ’em around everywhere. One is hanging up in the locker room and we’ll carry it with us down to Colorado Springs” this morning.

Despite having a two-week layoff, Aspen won’t be at full strength tonight against Palmer.

Aspen’s leading scorer and top-10 scorer in the league, sophomore Reid Hansen, will “see limited action,” such as a power play situation, due to a sprained ankle. Hansen has 8 goals and 18 assists, for 26 points on the season.

Aspen sophomore Jesse Amory gets the start in net tonight, as regular netminder Stuart Barwick is nursing a deep bone bruise on his glove hand, Kurtz said.

In five games this season, Amory has earned the fourth-best goalie rating in the league, with .904 save percentage and 2 shutouts. Barwick, a junior ranked No. 13 among goalies in the league, features a .863 save percentage in 8 games this season, including 1 shutout.

Should Aspen win tonight, Kurtz expects Reid Hansen and Barwick to be ready to play on Monday in the semifinals.

Junior defenseman Warren Chitty will not play tonight, Kurtz said, and may be lost for the remainder of the playoffs due to an ankle injury.

“We’ll be ready,” Kurtz said of tonight’s 6:30 p.m. face off with Palmer. “We had a great practice (Tuesday) night and they’ve been off for two weeks, so they’re to get after it.”


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