Aspen Trashmen win Florida tourney
The Aspen Trashmen brought home the gold from Florida, last weekend, winning a USA Hockey men’s tournament featuring teams from the East Coast and Germany.
The Trashmen, the valley’s newest competitive men’s senior ice hockey team, took their first big step of the season with their national schedule.
The team, according to player-coach Wily Manering, has been assembled to compete on a national level and compete for the national championship in the over 30 age division of USA Hockey.
The Aspen Trashmen qualified for the national tournament in Las Vegas in April with the weekend tournament championship in Florida – a elite-level tourney for over-21 age teams
“For a men’s team to take a week off of work and go play hockey takes a lot of commitment and shows how these guys love the game and how important it is to still compete at a high level,” Manering said.
“Al Butler and T.K. Kwiatkowski have assembled a strong and cohesive group of men that jell both on and off the ice,” Manering added.
The team opened the Florida tournament against Clearwater. A fast start included five goals from Butler in an 11-1 victory.
The line of Kwiatkowski and Mike Gempeler staged a passing clinic, according to Manering.
They each added goals while goaltender Andy Doherty shut down any scoring chances from Clearwater.
The defense of Karl Klauss, Paul Muldoon, Lindsey Holmbeck, Glenn Thurston and Igor Lyssogor played solid hockey – in the important first win and throughout the tournament, Manering said.
In the second game, Aspen skated against Melbourne, Fla., and the second line of Dan Cokely, Steve Whitmore and Jeff Boyd combined for three goals in a 10-1 win.
Steve Majeres was in goal for the big Aspen win.
“Our goaltending will frustrate opposing teams all year,” Manering said. “They complement each other and both come to play,” he added.
Klauss, with another strong defense games, added some shots on net for Aspen.
Manering said while the first two games were lopsided, it showed that the Trashmen were prepared to play disciplined, team hockey against the teams that featured some younger players.
In the third game against Tampa Bay, the Aspen Trash fell behind 2-0 early.
Butler cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period.
But Tampa Bay answered with a goal and a 3-1 lead.
Then Aspen countered with a powerful flurry that included Hans Brucker taking on defenders, two at a time, while linemates Gary Defina and Scott Thurston moved the puck around and set two beautiful offensive plays for goals and a 3-3 tie.
Butler netted two more goals for the hat trick and a 5-3 win – a victory that propelled the Aspen Trashmen into the championship game.
Aspen skated again against Tampa Bay for the title, with the Florida team leading its pool.
The Tampa Bay squad included International League ex-pros and the team was the defending champion in the tournament.
The physical championship match opened with a goal from Butler and a 1-0 Aspen lead.
Tampa Bay tied the score 1-1 before Jeff Boyd scored what turned out to be the game-winner with one second to play in the first period.
Aspen added goals from Gempeler, Brucker and Manering to win the physical contest 4-1 with Doherty in goal.
“to see the faces and the tired bodies after their four games in four nights was very heartening,” Manering said of the Trashmen.
“Every player came to Florida hoping to play the best they could and they showed that they belonged at the elite level of senior men’s play in the U.S.,” Manering said.
“One of the most valuable team members for the trip was Joe High, our physical therapist,” Manering said.
“Joe was a great asset as a trainer, helping all the team members get through the tournament,” Manering added.
The Aspen Trashmen will be back out on the road in November, but they will return in December and January for several games at the Aspen Ice Garden.
The Sun Valley Suns as well as a top senior men’s team from Dallas will visit the valley and skate before the local fans, Manering said. A team of NHL old-timers is also on the schedule for mid-February, he added.
The Trashmen will go to another USA Hockey ttourney in Lake Placid, N.Y.
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