Aspen Bantam A team just short of title
A brilliant season for the Aspen Bantam A hockey team ended with a dull thud last Sunday in Westminster as the Aspen team lost a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to Hyland Hills in a one-game, sudden-death final for the state championship.
Originally slated to face Pikes Peak, the champions of Continental Divide Youth Hockey’s Eastern Conference, the Aspen Bantam A’s, the Western Conference champions, were thrown slightly off-guard when tournament officials changed their opponent to Hyland Hills at the last minute.
Hyalnd Hills capitalized by getting on the scoreboard early in the first period, beating Aspen goalie Jesse Amory for a double-rebound goal.
Later in the period, Hyland Hills extended its lead to 2-0 when a slapshot from the point was tipped home, but Aspen fought back with a goal by defenseman Eric Strauss off a feed from team captain Reid Hansen to trail just 2-1 heading to the second period.
Amory turned away several breakaway attempts to keep Aspen close before Hansen picked up a rebound in traffic and found the net to tie the score 2-2 early in the second period.
But Hyland Hills picked up a fluke goal midway through the frame to take a 3-2 lead.
On the play, the puck was lofted into Aspen’s end of the ice from the point, got deflected by an Aspen defenseman and floated over Amory’s shoulder.
With their attack hampered by a rash of penalties, the Bantam A’s had a hard time keeping the pressure on Hyland Hills in the third period.
They managed a few inspired flurries and even pulled Amory in favor of a sixth skater with two minutes to play, but the Hyland Hills defense held strong to secure the 3-2 win.
Despite the loss, Aspen coach Lindsey Holmbeck called the season an “absolute success.” The Bantam A’s posted a stellar regular-season record of 14-1-1 and captured the Western Conference crown with a come-from-behind win over Casper, Wyoming, before finishing second in the state.
“We played our hearts out to get this far,” said Holmbeck. “For a team with only two lines and a shortage of players, we did great.”
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