AHS hockey wins key league contest
The Aspen High hockey team overcame perennial powerhouse Cheyenne Mountain for sole possession of second place in the Colorado Springs Metro League Friday.
Aspen, 8-1 in league play, capitalized on four power-play goals in the 4-1 win over Cheyenne Mountain (6-2) at the Colorado College rink in Colorado Springs. The next day, Aspen handed Coronado a 7-3 loss. The wins lifted Aspen to second in CS Metro League standings, behind Air Academy, the sole unbeaten in the conference at 8-0, and ahead of Cheyenne Mountain.
“In the true sense of the word it was a team win,” said Aspen coach Brett Kurtz, who’s leading Aspen in the team’s first-ever season of high school league hockey.
Aspen caught a bit of bad luck less than a minute into the contest when Cheyenne Mountain broke up a three-shot flurry in front of their net with a 2-on-1 break the other way.
A Cheyenne Mountain player “batted a waist-high pass out of midair and into the net,” Kurtz said, “and my thought was, `Oh no, it’s one of those nights.'”
Fortunately for Aspen, it wasn’t. Aspen goalie Stuart Barwick was perfect the rest of the way as the Aspen defense shut down a potent Cheyenne Mountain offense, led by league scoring leader Bobby Lewis, and then capitalized on their mounting frustrations.
“We talked about shutting [Lewis] down all week,” Kurtz said. “And I gave that job to [the line of] James Ibbotson, Will Graham and Grant Gracis. We matched their scoring line to out-muscle them, to out-skate them, and we did it. Then we started drawing penalties.”
In the second period, Cheyenne Mountain penalties led to three unanswered power-play goals for Aspen. Sophomore Reid Hansen recorded Aspen’s first goal, assisted by brother Carter Hansen and Ry Neiley. Carter Hansen netted Aspen’s next two goals, with assists going to Reid Hansen, Cody Obuhanick and Neiley.
Carter Hansen put the game out of reach at 4-1 Aspen in the third with a hat-trick goal, assisted by Reid Hansen and Neiley.
Aspen recorded 32 shots to Cheyenne Mountain’s 13.
“In the third, we just played fantastic and only gave up three shots. Stuart Barwick played great in net, and special teams were the difference on offense,” Kurtz said.
Less than 24 hours later, after shadowing the Lewis scoring line the night before, the Ibbotson-Graham-Gracis line led the offensive attack in a 7-3 win over Coronado. Ibbotson recorded a hat trick, while Gracis and Graham each earned assists, and the Aspen team sprang to a 3-0 lead in the first period.
“That’s when the letdown hit,” Kurtz said, as Coronado rallied back to 3-3 in the opening minutes of the third period. “Then we decided we were going to start playing. We raised the bar and Coronado couldn’t keep up with us.”
Reid Hansen scored two goals and had two assists while linemates Carter Hansen and Neiley each netted a goal and two assists. Defenseman Matt Young also had two assists.
“Our two big lines answered the bell in both games,” Kurtz said.
Next weekend, Aspen plays just one game, Saturday in Colorado Springs against Palmer, a top-five team in the league.
“I told the players that we’re no longer sneaking up on anybody,” Kurtz said. “Teams are scouting us and we’re the bully on the block, so to speak. We just knocked off one of the perennial powers in the league and now we control our own destiny.”
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After several loud explosions near the Smuggler Mine rocked Aspen on Saturday morning, local and state authorities are digging in to the cause and impact of the blast.