New season opens for Aspen High hockey | AspenTimes.com

New season opens for Aspen High hockey

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Drop the puck.

Another season of Colorado high school hockey is under way.

The Aspen Skiers, perennial playoff qualifiers in Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned hockey, will open the new season with a road trip and two road games next weekend.

The Skiers, who reached the state playoffs last year when they lost in the first round, will play Summit High School at 5:15 p.m. Friday at the ice rink in Breckenridge in a nonconference game.

A day later, the Skiers will take on the Mullen Mustangs in the Denver area (6:15 p.m. Saturday) in the first Foothills League game of the season.

The Aspen High School hockey team will play at Battle Mountain on Dec. 14 before opening the home season Dec. 18 against Steamboat Springs.

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"Every year, you know, is a new adventure," said veteran Aspen High School hockey coach Al Butler, in his eighth season as the head coach. "We have quite a few new faces this year … we only have seven players (with experience) returning from last year."

Butler said he's encouraged by the preseason preparation by the Skiers, who are down a bit in numbers this year.

"We won't have the depth we've had in the past. But we will have good skill and ability," Butler said. "And they are working hard out there."

He said the experience factor "will be the question for us."

Butler said the young Aspen team will have to adapt to the level of play in the Colorado high school league.

"With a releatively young team, it will be interesting to see how we perform," Butler said, adding that he will work the entire traveling roster into the nonleague game Friday night against Summit, another team that had heavy graduation losses last year.

"From years past, you know their eyes will be wide open … wondering if they can play at this level," Butler said. "That's always the way it is."

He said the Skiers will work on balancing their lines and working together on the ice.

"The Mullen game will be played differently," Butler said. "That's a conference game for us."

Butler said he likely will split time in goal in the Friday night opener between Evan Morris and Andy Vernier.

He said he'll decide from there who will start in goal against Mullen in the all-important conference opener Saturday night.

"This whole league keeps getting better and better," Butler said, marveling that the Skiers are able to compete against the larger, Front Range ice hockey programs.

On the attack, the Skiers will showcase the likes of Harry Ferguson, Ryan Fitzgerald, Nicholas Cottrell, etc.

"The players want to get out there and start playing," Butler said of the 2013-14 Skiers.

Aspen's schedule will include home games against Battle Mountain (Jan. 8), Loveland Resurrection Christian, Kent Denver, Monarch, Summit and Ralston Valley.

The Skiers last won a boys state hockey title in 2007.

dstrode@aspentimes.com