Aspen girls skate to National Tournament
It’s on to the National Tournament for the Aspen Tier I girls hockey team after a four-game sweep of last weekend’s Rocky Mountain District championships in Albuquerque.
Playing a grueling schedule of four games in two days, the Aspen girls dominated from start to finish, outscoring their opponents 29-5 as they cruised to the district crown.
Aspen opened play on Saturday, March 18, with a 10-1 pasting of an inexperienced New Mexico team that featured 10 players 15 or younger on the roster.
“With our experience and team speed, we overpowered them,” said Aspen coach Doug Coombe.
Aspen’s first line of Roxy Stang, Rebekka Lass and Cyndy Kenyon combined for five goals while the second line of Sarah Holbrook, Alysia Park and Ali Crum added three goals. Sara Finesilver and Julianne Vasichek recorded Aspen’s other goals.
Saturday’s second game, versus Montana, was delayed three hours due to a blackout and didn’t commence until 10:30 p.m. The delay seemed to have no effect on the Aspen girls, however, as they once again trounced the competition 10-1, outshooting Montana 51-17 in the contest.
The first line once again led the way with six goals. Holbrook had a goal and three assists, and Leah O’Brien had a goal and an assist. Jessica Smith and Sarah Freeman also scored for Aspen, and Kendall French contributed two assists.
In game three on Sunday, the Tier I girls ran up against a very determined Utah squad in a must-win semifinal. Overly complacent from the two easy wins Saturday, Aspen fell behind Utah 2-1 after two periods before the offense ignited.
“They gave us a very good game,” said Coombe, “but we came out storming in the third.”
Stang scored two goals in the first six minutes of the third period off assists by Lass to put Aspen ahead, and that seemed to take the air out of Utah’s sails.
“Once we got ahead, their bubble kind of burst,” said Coombe
Carrie Holdorf, who scored Aspen’s first goal in the game, picked up another midway through the period to put Aspen up 4-2 before Stang set up Vasichek for Aspen’s final goal to put the game out of reach. Crum had the assists on both of Holdorf’s goals.
A late Utah goal made the final tally 5-3 in favor of Aspen, but came too late to influence the outcome.
“It was a very good hockey game,” said Coombe. “It was a good wake-up call for us.”
In the finals, the Aspen girls squared off with one of their top rivals, the Colorado Extreme from Colorado Springs, and put together one of their finest efforts of the season in a 4-1 win.
Stang opened the scoring for Aspen in the first period, and then Kenyon added a goal off an assist by Lass in the second before another Stang goal, assisted by Lass and Kenyon, ran the score to 3-0 headed into the third period.
Crum and Park set up Holdorf for a fourth Aspen goal before the Extreme finally broke into the scoring column with a mere four minutes to play.
For the game, the Aspen girls outshot the Extreme 32-17 to continue their dominating ways. Aspen goalie Kim Raymond was outstanding in net for Aspen as she picked up all four wins. Her understudy, Molly Tomkins, also played well in limited minutes.
The district championship means that Aspen will now move on to the National Tournament to be held the first week of April in Troy, Michigan. Of the 12 teams that qualified for the event, Aspen has already played three, a fact that Coombe believes benefits his charges.
“The tough schedule we played helped tremendously,” he said. “The girls seem to be peaking at the right time. We’re looking forward to going to the tournament and seeing what we can do.”
Aspen will open pool play on Wednesday, April 5, against the New Jersey Colonials. Each team will play in a pool of four, with the top two finishers in each poll and two at-large teams qualifying for the quarterfinals, which begin Saturday, April 8. The finals are set for Sunday, April 9.
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Just in time for Halloween, the Pitkin County Board of Health voted 4-2 to reduce the size of informal gatherings from 10 to five for at least the next two weeks starting Friday. According to the public health director, officials are currently investigating 11 outbreaks in Pitkin County.