Aspen Trashmen skate for national title
Having already garnered one national tournament title this winter, the Trashmen of Aspen, the valley’s senior elite men’s ice hockey team, are off to Las Vegas today in an effort to secure another.
The Trashmen, winners of an Over-21 open championship in Florida earlier in the season, will be taking part in the Over-30 national championship tournament set for this weekend, and they will be hoping to accomplish a goal set out for them before the team was even assembled, according to player/coach Wily Manering.
“That’s why this team was put together,” he said, “to go for the national title. Well, here we are.”
After recent wins over the Vail AAA midget team and the Aspen Men’s League all-stars, the Trashmen have been practicing two or three times a week in both Aspen and Vail to prepare for the tournament and according to Manering, the team has a very realistic chance to come out on top in Las Vegas.
“We’re all going there to win this sucker,” he said.
“We’ve got a really good shot at it. We’re deep at every position.”
At the same time, Manering was quick to point out that with the stakes this high, playing time has to be earned by the members of the full 20-man squad.
“These are the nationals,” said Manering, “so it’s not equal ice time. Those who are playing the best will finish up.”
The coach noted that the Trashmen’s power play, featuring TK Kwiatkowski, Al Butler, Keith Howie, Mike Gempeler and Steve Whitmore, has been playing particularly well, and the penalty-killing unit, spearheaded by John McBride Jr., has been solid.
Logistically, the tournament will not be without its problems for the local lads. Defenseman Glenn Thurston will be playing with a shoulder separation suffered two weeks ago in Vail, and backup goalie Steve Mageres will be nursing an injured knee.
In addition, Howie will spend Saturday at a wedding in Athens, Ga., before flying back to Vegas to rejoin the team, and defenseman Karl Clauss will be in New York City on business before he, too, catches a flight to Nevada to meet up with his teammates.
Their projected absences, however, are expected to be mitigated by the addition to the team of Mike Lalor, a former NHL standout whose pro career spanned 12 seasons with five teams. Lalor qualified to join the Trashmen for the tournament after playing with them for the latter part of the season.
Aspen will have a late-night practice tonight in Las Vegas before opening the tournament on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. against the Spokane (Wash.) Grinders.
Game two will be against Las Vegas at 3 p.m. Friday, and game three will be at 5:45 p.m. Saturday versus the New York Road Warriors.
The tournament semifinals are scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday, with the finals to follow at 4:15 p.m.
The 10-team pool also includes outfits from Alaska and Utah, as well as the defending national champions, the Paddock Pools from Detroit.
In other Trashmen news, next winter’s rematch against the NHL Alumni All-Stars has been scheduled for the week before the NHL All-Star Game in Denver, meaning the game in Aspen should draw some of the true icons of hockey, who will be looking to play a tune-up game at altitude before going to the Pepsi Center to play on national TV in the NHL Legends game.
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