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Area hockey teams skate into high gear

Aspen Times Staff Report

With the holidays over and things getting back to normal, area hockey programs have seen a flurry of activity, with teams of all ages and abilities hitting the road for games in such far-flung places as Chicago and Sun Valley and games going on right here in town.

The hockey action promises to get even hotter in the coming weeks as the Trashmen of Aspen will be playing at home this weekend and the Tier I girls will be at the Aspen Ice Garden for their only home games of the season from Jan. 28-30. Then, on Feb. 19, a team of NHL Alumni all-stars will be coming to town for a one-night-only event with the Trashmen.

For more on the local teams, check out the local hockey roundup. Aspen Avalanche Midget AA’s The Aspen Avalanche Midget AA team spent last weekend in Colorado Springs at the Colorado Cup 2000, a four-team tournament of high school-age teams from around the West. Slowed somewhat by injury, the Avalanche nevertheless made it to the finals of the event before dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker to the Denver University AA’s.

Aspen opened the event in grand style, dispatching Oklahoma City by a 5-0 score. Team captain Bridger Smith had two goals for Aspen and Carter Hansen recorded a hat trick and had one assist. Oliver Garfield and Ryan Neiley each had three assists and Brendan Wynn had one in support of the shutout pitched by goaltender Hank Richey.

In its next game, the Avalanche found itself unexpectedly trailing a team from Santa Clara 1-0. Smith scored with just two seconds left in the second period off assists from Neiley and Hansen to give Aspen a disappointing 1-1 tie, despite some fine work in the nets from goalie Tony Prikryl.

“We should have beaten them,” said Aspen head coach Brett Kurtz. “We played great in some games, and some games we didn’t show up.”

In its final pool-play matchup, the Avalanche took on league rival DU, which Aspen had beaten four times already this season. But DU’s tournament roster was stocked with some AAA players from Team Colorado, and the Avalanche was skating with just four defensemen, so DU was able to roll to a 3-0 win.

Aspen’s 1-1-1 record, however, was good enough to advance the team to the finals and set up a rematch against DU. This time the game would be more of a defensive battle, with DU cliniging to a 1-0 lead as the third period wound down. With under two minutes to play in the game, Aspen pulled its goalie in favor of an extra skater, and the move paid off seconds later as Neiley scored with just 1:47 to play to tie the game 1-1. Unfortunately, the Avalanche’s comeback would be short-lived, as DU found the net with a mere 36 seconds remaining to take the tournament crown 2-1.

Despite the loss, the Avalanche was encouraged by the level of play in Colorado Springs.

“Things are coming together,” said assistant head coach Mark LeRose. “We’re looking to peak at the right time.” Tier I Girls Despite playing a brutal schedule of games that has already this season taken them to Minnesota twice and Chicago three times for games against the finest 19-under girls teams in the country, the Aspen Tier I girls have skated to an impressive 11-9-1 record (7-8-1 in an ultra-competitive league in the Midwest), including third-place finishes at the Shattuck Invitational in Faribauld, Minn., and the All American Tournament in Blane, Minn.

“We’re doing pretty good considering the travel and all that,” said coach Doug Coombe. “We play at the highest level of girls hockey, and the girls play really well together. They play very hard and they don’t give up.”

On their most recent road trip, to Chicago last weekend, the Tier I girls went 1-2-1 with a big win over the Wisconsin AAA team.

The Tier I girls started the weekend with a 7-1 loss to Belle Tire of Detroit, with Ali Crum scoring Aspen’s goal off assists by Rebekka Lass and Alysia Park, who lives in Dallas but plays for Aspen.

A number of the girls on the team live elsewhere and join the local players at the games, which limits the practice time the girls get as a full team.

“We’re not quite to [Belle Tire’s] level yet,” said Coombe. “That’s where we hope to be by the end of the year.”

In the first of three games Sunday, Aspen picked up a tough 3-2 win over Wisconsin AAA on two goals by Sacha Anasatas, an assist and the game-winning goal from Rebekka Lass and assists by Carrie Holdorf and Sarah Holbrook.

Game two pitted Aspen against a very strong team from Minnesota that jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period.

The Tier I girls outscored their counterparts 2-1 the rest of the way before succumbing 5-2. Crum had both of Aspen’s goals, with Lass and Anastas getting the assists.

The day’s finale was a rematch with Wisconsin AAA, and this time the game ended in a 1-1 deadlock.

Park scored the lone goal for the Tier I girls, assisted by Holbrook and Leah O’Brien.

Kim Raymond was solid all weekend in goal for Aspen, and Katie Hussey, Kendall French and Julianne Vasichek all played good defense .

They were supported by the team’s talented forwards, including Jessica Smith, who had a strong weekend offensively, according to Coombe.

The coach also credited the contributions of local players Molly Tomkins, Elizabeth Severy and Sara Finesilver for the team’s success.

The Aspen Tier I girls will be playing their only home games of the season next weekend, Jan. 29-30, when they play host to prep school powerhouse Shattuck. Trashmen of Aspen The big news for the Trashmen of Aspen, the valley’s top senior men’s hockey team, is that all systems are go for the game against the NHL Alumni All-Star Team scheduled for Sat., Feb. 19, at the Aspen Ice Garden.

Among those expected to be on hand for the big game are such recent hockey world luminaries as Pat LaFontaine, Dino Ciccarelli, Neil Broten and Joel Otto and all-time legends like Phil Esposito and Stan Makita.

Tickets for the event will go on sale next week at the Wheeler Box Office.

The Trashmen will get a chance to tune up for the NHL Alumni game in front of the home crowd this weekend when they play host to the Colorado Springs Rhinos at the Aspen Ice Garden.

Face-off is set for 8 p.m. Sat., Jan. 22, and 11 a.m. Sun., Jan. 23.

The Rhinos, a team comprised of former Colorado College standouts and pros from the Colorado Gold Kings, fell to the Trashmen 10-5 three weeks ago in Colorado Springs.

But the club is expected to bring a stronger team to Aspen.

Admission to the games is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

In their most recent action, the Trashmen dropped a couple of tough decisions on the road against the Sun Valley Suns.

After traveling together as a team all the way to Idaho in order to renew an old rivalry that dates to the days of the old Aspen Leafs, the Trashmen dropped the opening game 5-4.

The score was tied 4-4 heading into the third period, but then some questionable officiating put the Aspen side at a 5-on-3 disadvantage, and the Suns scored a power play goal in the final minute to secure the win.

The Trashmen grabbed the early lead in the second game on a goal by Mike Gish and were tied 3-3 with the Suns heading into the third perio.

But Sun Valley responded with three goals down the stretch for a 6-3 victory.

“We’re displeased with the losses,” said Trashmen player/coach Wily Manering.

“We learned a lot, though. We learned we need to practice more as a team. But we really enjoyed it.

“Sun Valley liked it so much they’re coming here next year.” Bantam A’s The Bantam A’s continued their strong season with a two-game sweep of Arapaho recently in Denver.

The team jumped out early and fended off a late Arapaho charge to win 3-2 in game one and then came from behind to take game two 4-3.

Defenseman Matt Young led the way for the Bantam A’s in the first contest with two goals, both on slapshots. Young’s second goal broke a 2-2 tie in the third period to give Aspen the victory.

Captain Reid Hansen opened the scoring for the Bantam A’s in the second period on a solo breakaway, and Scott Tarbet, David Gull and Sean French each carded an assist.

In game two, Arapaho stunned the Bantam A’s with two first period goals, but Aspen recovered to tie the game on goals by Tarbet and Young.

Arapaho regained the lead early in the third period, but late goals by Joey Carlson and Reid Hansen lifted the Bantam A’s to the 4-3 win.

Carlson had two assists in the game to go along with his goal.

Hansen had one assist and a goal, as did Young. Michael Reveal also netted an assist.

Goalie Jesse Amory stopped 28 of 30 shots in game one to pick up the win and turned away 13 of 16 in game two.

With the wins, Aspen pushed its record to 8-1-1, trailing only Casper and Steamboat in the league standings.

Coach Lindsey Holmbeck credited the entire offensive effort and strong defense from Gull, Young, Jamie Walbert and Peter MacKellar for the win.

Afterwards, he summed up the team’s chances at making a strong postseason run.

“If we can keep our momentum, I think we can compete at the state championships,” he said. Mother Puckers The Aspen Mother Puckers continued their strong play in this, the team’s 25th season. Aspen split a pair of games last weekend with the Steamboat Chix with Stix, leaving the Mother Puckers with a 7-4 season record.

Steamboat got the better of the local ladies in game one on Saturday, winning 2-1 in a hotly contested, defensive battle.

Rebecca Riggs was great in net for Aspen, and Elizabeth Easter scored the Mother Puckers’ goal.

The next day, however, the Mother Puckers fought back with a 4-1 win to gain the split, behind two goals from Easter and one off the stick of Beth Madsen.

Goalie Margo Cuttitta turned in a sparkling performance for the win.

But Cuttitta, as it turned out, wasn’t through. After her game with the Mother Puckers, Cuttitta was recruited to play a game for the Denver Bandits and shut out the previously undefeated team from Vail 2-0.

The next games for the Mother Puckers will be on the road Feb. 4-6 in Denver.

The very next weekend, though, the team will come home for games at the Aspen Ice Garden on Feb. 12 and 13.

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Posted: Friday, January 21, 2000


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