Aspen’s Peewee A’s claim state title
March 22, 2002
Aspen’s Peewee A youth hockey team captured the state championship on Sunday in Arvada, capping off its storybook season with a 4-1 win over Colorado Springs.
The victory cemented the Aspen Peewee A’s as one of Aspen’s finest hockey teams in history. The team of 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds concluded the season with an 18-0 record in Continental Divide Youth Hockey League play and 31-2-0 overall in Peewee A-level contests. The team’s only losses came against Peewee AA competition, one division above the Peewee A level, where Aspen finished at 3-4 on the season.
“Aspen’s Peewee A’s won the state championship years ago,” said coach Al Butler, “but I don’t think they did it the way we did it – that’s without a single loss at the Peewee A level.”
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“It was a pretty incredible year, especially for an Aspen team,” continued Butler, who played Div. I college hockey at Lake Superior State. “We don’t have the players to draw from like they do in Denver, but we played as a team. A lot of times, you’ll see where one or two players carry a team, but this team plays together. Every one of them made their contribution at some point in the season.”
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In Sunday’s championship game, Colorado Springs beat Aspen’s usually untouchable goalie, Kody Hornburg, in the opening 20 seconds of play. “But with this type of team, you don’t really get concerned about it,” Butler said. “We always keep things positive, and we knew eventually that we’d come back.
“With Kody, they may get to him early in the game,” Butler continued, “but usually after that, he’ll shut ’em down.”
Aspen captain and center Tyler Moore tied the game at 1-1 on a goal late in the first period, and the teams remained locked in a tie through the second, Butler said.
“Throughout the course of a game, we don’t have a lot of peaks and valleys,” Butler said. “We keep a pretty good pace throughout the game, so when we came to the third period, I had a good feeling that our pace would dominate the game, which it did,” Butler said. “We started taking it to them.”
Four minutes into the third and final period, Moore struck again for his second goal of the game. “That was a key goal to give us a leg up,” Butler said. “And we didn’t stop there. We kept bringing it to them.”
With six minutes left, Moore notched his third goal to lift Aspen to a 3-1 advantage and record a personal hat trick. “And from that point on, we just tried to prevent them from getting back in the game,” the coach said.
Colorado Springs pulled its goalie after Aspen was called for a penalty, but Aspen’s other center, Ryder Fyrwald, converted an empty-net goal to stretch Aspen’s lead to 4-1.
“Colorado Springs had a lot of good opportunities in the last couple minutes, but Kody kept the door shut on them,” Butler said, and Aspen skated off the ice for the final time with a 4-1 victory.
“A win like that is pretty emotional for everybody,” Butler said. “Some of these kids may never get the chance to play in a state championship again. It was our goal all year, but you don’t know how it’s going to pan out. So for it to pan out like we wanted, that’s pretty great.”
Aspen’s five defensemen, D.J. Furth, Ryan Chaloupka, Simon Dolginow, Bo Gallagher and Charlie Olson, “were outstanding throughout the season,” Butler said.
At the forwards, Moore and Fyrwald centered three different winger combinations throughout the season, Butler said. “The pairs that I was able to put together stayed the same throughout the course of the year,” Butler said, including Nicky Anastas and Matt Butler, Matt Cooper and Kyle Langley and Heimata Rutgers and David Goldberg. “And that continuity helped us play strong all year.”
Moore finished the season as the leading scorer in the CDYHL, Butler said.
“It’s great for a season to end that way, but it’s tough for those young gentlemen to say the season’s over,” Butler said. “They may never go through a season again and have the success they had.”