Aspen Avalanche rallies with two wins
After opening the 1999-2000 season with a pair of tough losses to the Littleton Hawks, the Aspen Avalanche Midget AA hockey team seems to have righted the ship.
The Avalanche took second place in the annual Ice Breaker tournament in Fort Collins at the end of October and then, after a brief hiatus while the state high school soccer playoffs finished up, returned home to sweep two games from the DU Midget AA team Saturday and Sunday.
In Saturday night’s contest, a game marred by a whopping 28 penalties, the Avalanche fell behind 3-0 in the second period.
But with just 1:44 remaining in the frame, Aspen finally broke the ice when Bridger Smith fired home a goal off a pass from Carter Hansen.
With 11:39 to play in the third period, Aspen’s James Ibbotson scored to cut the DU advantage to one.
Will Graham was credited with the assist.
But as time ticked away, Aspen still found itself on the short end of things. Tying goal Finally, with just 3:01 left in the game, Aspen’s Chris Erickson and Travis LaSalle set up Ry Neiley for the tying goal.
Then, just 24 seconds later, the Avalanche took the lead for good when Smith once again converted a Hansen pass to make the score 4-3.
Hansen would add an empty-net goal with five seconds to play to push the final score to 5-3.
The win was not without its setbacks for Aspen, however.
With the whistles coming fast and furious throughout the game, Aspen coach Brett Kurtz saw fit to argue a questionable call and ended up being ejected, meaning he would have to sit out Sunday’s contest.
With Kurtz gone, Wily Manering took over behind the bench for Aspen in Sunday morning’s game.
Once again the referees were determined to put their stamp on the affair and began making calls almost immediately, leaving one or the other team a man or two down for virtually the entire game.
In between the multiple penalties (there would be 21 in all in Sunday’s game), DU opened the scoring with 13:47 to go in the first period when Bryant and Senko set up Cerruti for a goal. Apparent goal DU appeared to add to its lead about five minutes later when a puck slipped behind Aspen goalie Hank Richey, but the referees never saw the puck cross the line and ruled the play no goal.
Aspen came back to tie the game with 2:11 to play in the first when Hansen scored a power-play goal off an Oliver Garfield assist.
But DU regained the lead in the second period during a four-on-four situation when Bryant took a pass from Coulehan up the right side and beat Richey for a goal.
Hansen, however, would bring Aspen right back, scoring off a faceoff deep in the DU zone with 12:48 remaining in the second period.
Brendan Wynn picked up the assist on the play.
Just over two minutes later, Hansen completed his hat trick and put Aspen on top with a short-handed goal.
The Aspen winger got free for a breakaway up the right side and scored an unassisted goal with 10:06 left in the second.
As the third period began, Aspen had a 3-2 edge, but Hansen wasn’t done yet.
With 11:20 to go in the game, he scored his fourth goal of the contest on an Aspen power play. Smith assisted on the score, giving the Avalanche a 4-2 lead.
DU would come back with a goal of their own on a five-on-three power play, with Liput splitting two Aspen defenders and beating Richey for an unassisted goal, but in the end, the Aspen defense held and the horn sounded.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.