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Aspen Avalanche finishes third in State Championships

Aspen Times Staff Report

The Aspen Avalanche Midget AA hockey team wrapped up its season last weekend at the State Championships in Littleton.

Th Avalanche skated to a third-place finish by going 1-2, and ending the tournament with their best game of the season in a 4-1 loss to the host Littleton Hawks, one of the strongest teams in the state.

“The team played very well,” said Aspen co-coach Brett Kurtz. “They played hard and gave it all they had, so the season actually ended on an up note. Littleton’s coach came up to me afterwards and said they played their best game of the season and they needed to, to beat us.”

Aspen opened the tournament Friday night with a 5-1 loss to the Hawks. The Avalanche started slowly and trailed 3-0 after the first period, but cut into Littleton’s lead when Carter Hansen got free for an unassisted, short-handed goal in the second period.

The Hawks, however, answered right back with a goal of their own and went on to win by four.

Aspen goalie Tony Prikryl had 25 saves in the game, though he spent three minutes on the bench near the end of the first period cooling down after Littleton’s torrid start. Hank Richey filled in for Prikryl and didn’t allow a goal.

Game two of the tournament, a 3-2 Aspen win, looked to be headed in much the same direction, with the Denver University Midgets taking a 2-0 advantage into the third period. But then DU ran into penalty problems and the Avalanche was able to capitalize.

Captain Bridger Smith scored a power-play goal with 14:25 to play to open the scoring for Aspen off a pass from Hansen. Five minutes later, Oliver Garfield scored during another Avalanche power play to knot the score at 2-all. Brendan Wynn picked up the assist on the play.

Finally, with 7:19 to go in the game, Hansen put Aspen ahead with an unassisted tally, also on a power play.

With Aspen leading 3-2 and time running out, Wynn picked up a penalty for cross-checking, giving DU a power play of its own. But the Avalanche killed off the penalty to ice the win.

Meanwhile, as luck would have it, Littleton was being upset in the winner’s bracket, setting up a rematch with Aspen on the loser’s side of the double-elimination draw.

Aspen’s Travis LaSalle scored off a David Haridim assist to account for the Avalanche’s lone goal in the game, but it was not enough as the Hawks once again notched the win, this time by a score of 4-1.

“The kids played their hearts out,” said Aspen co-coach Mark LeRose.

“It’s a rare occassion when you can lose a game and feel good about it. Sometimes when you lose, you win.”


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