AHS hockey team earns all-league accolades
Three players from Aspen High School failed to beat their coach – Brett Kurtz, the manager of the opposing squad – in the 9th Annual Colorado High School Hockey Senior All-Star Game on March 10 in Colorado Springs.
Aspen’s captain and forward Carter Hansen – skating his last game in AHS colors, like teammates Grant Gracis and Jeremy Young – scored a goal assisted by Gracis in the “Gold” team’s losing effort against the “Kings” team, 4-3.
“I ended up coaching against them, so winning wasn’t so sweet,” joked Aspen coach Brett Kurtz.
“We all had a great time,” he added. “It was a great experience for all of us to represent our school.”
AHS senior forward Jeff Flack was an alternate at the all-star game.
Aspen, Colorado’s state hockey championship runner-up in the first ever year of the AHS hockey program, also earned several accolades at an associated banquet.
Carter Hansen was voted to the second all-conference team, while sophomore Reid Hansen, Carter’s younger brother and linemate, was named to the all-rookie team, composed of freshmen and sophomore players.
Juniors Ry Neiley, a defenseman, and Cody Obuhanick, a center, were awarded honorable mention all-conference recognition, along with Reid Hansen. Senior forward James Ibbotson and Stuart Barwick were nominated for all-conference recognition.
Aspen also landed 13 players on the conference’s all-academic team. Barwick, Ibbotson, Sean Friedland, Jamie Gull, Chris Luu and Matt Young earned first team honors. The criteria for all academic first-teamers included a grade point average of 3.5 or better and good sportsmanship on and off the ice, Kurtz explained.
Aspen placed Jesse Amory, Jeff Flack, Grant Gracis, Carter Hansen, Ry Neiley, Matt Stege and Jeremy Young on the second all academic team, meaning they maintained a GPA between 3.0 and 3.5 during the season.
“Our names seemed to be getting called a lot for the all academic team,” Kurtz said. “And with all the traveling we do, it’s impressive.”
Kurtz said Aspen’s limited exposure on the all-conference team – with Carter Hansen landing the only spot, on the second team – is a testament to the team’s balanced attack.
“We collectively, in the true sense of the word, had a team,” Kurtz said. “We didn’t have one true star that people focused on, we played team-style hockey, and you don’t receive a lot of individual accolades when you play a steady team game like that.”
“Plus, we’re new to the league and a lot of people don’t know who we are,” the coach added.
For Kurtz, who the Aspen’s first-ever hockey program to an emotional overtime loss in the state championship game Feb. 28, the all-star contest marked his final game behind the bench. After a two-year stint with Aspen hockey, the 32-year-old coach is leaving for Los Angeles to try his luck as a screenwriter, a field in which he holds a master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University. Trend setting Aspen’s success in its first-ever season in the Colorado High School Hockey League may be setting a trend for westward expansion in the budding league, Kurtz said.
Aspen and Summit County High School upped school participation to 14 when they entered the league this past season, Kurtz said, and now other schools west of the Front Range are considering joining, including Vail, Steamboat and another school from Denver.
“I think Aspen and Summit were huge catalysts for the growth of the league,” Kurtz said. “And it’s exciting, because then it truly will become a Colorado state hockey league. There could easily be a Western Slope Conference as early as next year.”
Regardless of how the league shakes out, Aspen will return a solid team that’s likely to make more noise in the playoffs.
“There’s a great nucleus for next year,” Kurtz said, adding that the next coach has not yet been named. “We’ve got great skaters coming back, both goalies coming back and it looks very bright for them next year.”
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