Aspen hockey has talent, questions on offense
December 4, 2009
ASPEN – The Aspen hockey team begins this season in the same rink where last year ended.
In February, the Skiers surrendered two goals in the first four minutes to Lewis Palmer and later skated off their home ice after a 5-1 loss in the state quarterfinals.
Aspen enters Friday’s home game with Battle Mountain (6:15 p.m.) with high hopes – but without last season’s go-to player.
Daniel Doremus, who last year averaged nearly a goal per game and scored three times in two postseason contests, opted this summer to forego his senior year in Aspen and play Triple A hockey on the Front Range.
“We always knew that was a possibility and we don’t discourage that,” head coach Al Butler said Thursday. “If someone is looking to try and advance their career and trying to go on to play some Division I college hockey, they pretty much need to go this route. The opportunity came up, and he felt like it was in his best interest to go ahead and pursue that.”
The Skiers will have to absorb more than the loss of Doremus on their front line. Murphy Fyrwald graduated and Trey Fox, a Glenwood Springs resident who was consistent scorer last season despite missing substantial time because of injury, has decided to pursue a future in college football.
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“We have some question marks obviously on the offensive side,” Butler said. “We’ll try to play accordingly.”
Replacing those talents will take a collective effort, Butler said. Among those he expects to contribute are senior Bo Writer and juniors James Pardee, Taylor Mayer and Nicky Ufkes. They all spent the bulk of last season on the second and third lines for a squad that finished fifth in the 5A Foothills conference, amassed a record of 13-6 and garnered the 11th seed in the 16-team playoff field.
“There’s potential there,” Butler said. “Are we going to have some true goal scorers? Probably not. But we do have a bunch of guys that will be able to score goals for us.”
Defense will be a strength. Goaltender Zach Ware, a three-year starter who was a backup when the Skiers won their first state title in 2007, returns. So, too, does senior Milo Stark and Laker Mines, who saw a lot of time on the ice as a freshman last season. Seniors Coby Langley and Michael Ryerson and junior David Cottrell will also play pivotal roles on what should be a stingy unit.
“With this being [Ware’s] senior year, we’re obviously expecting him to hopefully win us a few games. And we figure to get some scoring from that back line,” Butler said. “Coby and Laker like to rush the puck, and we’re hoping to take advantage of that and get some scoring chances.
“We’re taking a shot at the dart board with the line combinations for the first game. We’ll see how they gel together.”
Butler’s relatively young squad, which he predicts will finish in the top five in the Foothills, will be tested early. Tonight, Aspen will face off with a Battle Mountain squad ranked fifth in The Denver Post’s preseason poll. The Huskies are also out for revenge; the Skiers topped them in the first round of last season’s playoffs.
Saturday, Aspen will play Summit (10:15 a.m.) and Steamboat Springs (4:45 p.m.), which is ranked fourth in the Post’s latest poll. The Skiers will take a trip to the Front Range next weekend to face Cheyenne Mountain on Friday and Dakota Ridge on Saturday.
The schedule is difficult, but Butler is quick to point out that only one game (Summit) will count toward the conference record. Aspen lost its first five games last season and has been a notorious slow starter of late.
Butler said it is imperative that his young squad buck that trend this season.
“Obviously, that’s important for us, especially if we get some goal scoring from some of the guys we’re [hoping] to step up,” he said. “It will help their confidence. … I think we’re definitely going to compete. If these guys are out there giving everything they’ve got, that’s all I can ask for.”
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