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Aspen Bantam A’s finish second at state tournament

Aspen Times Staff Report

The Aspen Bantam A Hockey team finished a dream season last weekend at the Pee Wee State Hockey Tournament in Denver.

After finishing atop the Colorado Bantam Mountain Division with a 13-1 record (29-10-1 overall), Aspen received a bye into the semifinals of the postseason tournament.

There, Aspen finished second, losing to Littleton 2 in the state title game, 3-2, at McNichols Sports Arena.

Before the state title game, Aspen defeated Wyoming, 3-1, and the Littleton Hawks, 4-2, to advance to the championship game.

“The win over Littleton was amazing for this team,” coach Lindsey Holmbeck said. “The entire weekend was fantastic. This team came together when they needed to and just did a wonderful job.”

Littleton 2 then defeated the Littleton Hawks the following day to advance to the double-elimination finale against Aspen at McNichols sports arena. Game 1 Aspen came out flying against Littleton 2, a team they had never played, netting two goals early in the opening period.

“I think that we were still on a high from the win over Littleton 1, because they came out ready to play,” Holmbeck said.

Sean Friedland scored from the point off a screen from assistant captain Brandon Chicoine and Tim Hagist for the early 1-0 lead.

Less than a minute later, Will Graham scored off an assist from Chris Cooper, giving Aspen a commanding 2-0 lead early in the contest.

But Littleton rallied, scoring two quick goals late in the opening period to tie the score at 2-2.

Aspen responded with its third goal from Ry Neily on an assist from Cody Obuhanick to regain the lead at 3-2.

But that was the last lead Aspen would see as Littleton scored five unanswered goals for the 7-3 win. Littleton held Aspen’s offense to just one shot in the second period.

Goalkeeper Stuart Barwick started the game, but was forced to leave in the second period after re-aggravating a hip injury. Before he left, Barwick stopped 15 shots.

Jesse Amory filled in for Barwick and stopped 10 shots. Game 2 Because the format was double elimination, the two teams faced each other later that same day.

Although Littleton had already played two games that day, the players came out pumped up and netted two early goals in the first period. Aspen kept its cool and continued to hit hard and play a physical game, although exhaustion was evident.

And Aspen’s James Ibbotson played what assistant coach Peter McBride said “was his best game of the season.”

In the first period, Ibbotson scored off a rebound for the 1-0 lead. Neily and Cooper assisted on the play. But Littleton answered five minutes later to tie the score at 1-1

Littleton then took a 4-1 lead into the final period when Ibbotson cut the lead to two with a score off another rebound.

Then one minute later, Ibbotson took a shot that hit the post in Aspen’s last scoring opportunity as Littleton held on for the win and the state title.

“Even though we didn’t win the state title, we are still the winners, Holmbeck said. “They played a great tournament and had a fantastic season.”

“They are a class act all the way around,” Holmbeck said.

“In my 20 some years of involvement with team sports, I have never seen such courage, heart, discipline and team spirit from group of young boys in my life,” said McBride who grew up playing with Aspen Junior Hockey. “It was one of the greatest performances I have ever been a part of in life.”

Aspen 3, Wyoming 1

Starting out slowly, Aspen overcame an early 0-1 deficit to score 2 unanswered goals for the 2-1 lead.

After taking a pass from Matt Stege, Neily blasted by a defenseman and beat the goalie through the five hole with a quick shot on the ice. Then, Cooper, took a pass from Ibbotson and made a composed pass in heavy traffic from the top of the slot to Joey Carlson who snuck the puck beneath the goalie’s pads.

Aspen kept the pressure in the third period to move into the winners division. Barwick made 13 saves. A big win The win against Wyoming matched Aspen up with the Littleton Hawks, champions of the Eastern Plains Division.

Earlier in the year, Aspen played the Hawks and lost 4-0.

Aspen jumped to an early lead in the first period on a goal by Friedland, assisted by Cooper and Hagist. Littleton quickly responded with a goal, but Aspen stuck to its game.

Despite enduring a lot of hard hits, cuts and bruises, Aspen never retaliated once as Littleton continued to take penalties – a total of 24 minutes.

In the second period, Reid Hanson scored on a power-play after cutting from behind the net. Friedland and defenseman Erik Strauss made the assists. In the third period, Aspen increased its lead to 3-1 with a rebound goal from Hagist with assists by Hanson and Friedland.

In the third period, Neily, off the assist of Will Graham, put the final nail in the coffin with a perfect shot from the blue line to score on the empty net advancing Aspen to the finals.

Amory made 19 saves.


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