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Air Academy grounds Aspen High hockey

Tim Mutrie

The Aspen High School hockey team let a pivotal league game slide to Air Academy High School at the Aspen Ice Garden Saturday.

Playing for a chance to lock up second place in the Colorado High School Hockey League standings, Aspen outshot Air Academy and nearly rallied back late in the contest. But defensive breakdowns, early and late, allowed the speedy Air Academy to steal the game 5-4.

“The bottom line,” said Aspen coach Brett Kurtz after the game, “is when we made a defensive mistake, they capitilized and scored.”

Aspen, 10-2 in league play, finishes its regular-season schedule Tuesday in Breckenridge against Summit County. With a win, Aspen is likely to finish in either second or third place in the league standings, behind first-place team Liberty.

“That was a bad loss in the standings,” Kurtz said. “We controlled our destiny and didn’t follow through. We’ll have to see where we finish. We put ourselves in a position to have to watch the standings.”

Air Academy, 6-2 in league play, took a 2-0 lead through the first period against Aspen Saturday, though Aspen countered with two goals in the second period, scored by Grant Gracis (assisted by Will Graham) and Cody Obuhanick (assisted by Reid Hansen and Carter Hansen). However, Air Academy added a third goal before the siren sounded and then a fourth with just 31 seconds remaining in the period.

An attacking Aspen team dominated the third period, peppering the Air Academy goalie with several shots, including two blasts that caught the crossbar or post. The Skiers finally broke through with 3:12 left to play on a goal by Carter Hansen, assisted by his younger brother, Reid.

And for just eight seconds Aspen trailed 4-3, before Air Academy struck back to go up 5-3 at 3:04. Less than a minute later, Ry Neiley scored again for Aspen, assisted by Reid and Carter Hansen, to cut the lead to 5-4. Air Academy managed to kill off a penalty in the final minute to claim the 5-4 final.

Aspen goalie Stuart Barwick saw 23 shots from Air Academy, while Aspen managed to direct 26 shots on goal.

“We dominated the entire game,” senior captain Carter Hansen said after the game. “We just couldn’t bury them. In the playoffs it’ll depend on whether we show up and play three periods of hockey. [Saturday] we only played two. And every single bounce went their way.”

Aspen is guaranteed a berth to the state playoffs, though its seed will depend on how other teams finish this week.

On Friday night, Aspen crushed Mitchell 7-0. Aspen goalie Jesse Amory recorded the shutout as Aspen jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first period with goals from James Ibbotson (2), Loren Ryerson and Neiley. Carter Hansen added a goal for Aspen in the second period, and Jeff Flack and Chris Luu each recorded goals in the third to lift Aspen to a 7-0 win.


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