AHS hockey falls 1-0 in semis
Aspen Times Staff Writer
There was no panic on the Aspen bench when Cheyenne Mountain went up 1-0 on a power play goal in the first period.
Aspen had faith, with its 14 seniors a living testament to experience, and fight, entering the final four of the Colorado State Hockey Championships on a 12-game winning streak.
And this was also a team that hadn’t been shut out all season.
The Skiers rallied and retooled but that tying goal never came as No. 4 seed Aspen fell to No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain of Colorado Springs 1-0 in the semifinals Friday night at Air Force Academy’s Cadet Arena near Colorado Springs.
“It was desperation at the end,” said Aspen senior Reid Hansen. “Everyone was crashing the net, looking for that rebound. We just couldn’t get it in.”
Aspen and Cheyenne Mountain, the defending state champion, peppered each others’ goals with equal diligence, 21 shots on goal apiece, and Aspen’s best chance came with 50 seconds to play, during a face-off in the Cheyenne Mountain zone.
Aspen pulled senior goalie Jesse Amory and focused the energy of a season on penetrating the other net, guarded by sophomore Daniel Timmons.
“We put the puck on the net then, and that was probably our best chance to tie it up, but they were able to clear it out,” LeRose said.
“But it wasn’t like we didn’t have chances earlier. We just couldn’t bury it.”
Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Dylan Cooper scored the only goal of the game, and just the second against Aspen in the postseason, with about three minutes to play in the first, 15-minute period. The goal touched off a physical, defensive-minded game until the horn finally sounded.
“It’s always fun to play a good game with a good team,” said AHS senior Joey Carlson, one of the tri-captains along with Hansen and Matt Young. “And this was a good hockey game; it just didn’t feel good at the end.”
“For me it was pretty emotional. I grew up my whole life playing with pretty much all 14 seniors, all the way up from peewees. We wanted it this year and it’s hard to lose that way.”
Aspen finished the 2003 campaign at 15-4 while Cheyenne Mountain, the team that upset Aspen in the semifinals last year en route to the state title, advanced to Saturday’s final vs. No. 3 Kent Denver. Kent Denver knocked off No. 2 Battle Mountain in the other semifinal Friday night.
But on Saturday night, the would-be repeat champions, Cheyenne Mountain, boasting an 18-1 record, lost decisively, 4-1.
Aspen, which first debuted a high school hockey team three seasons ago, had twice lost the state championship. In 2001, it was a 2-1 overtime loss to Liberty in the finals, last year it was a 5-3 defeat (including an empty-netter) to Cheyenne Mountain in the semifinals.
“That fact that we’re competing against these big schools where 80 kids try out for the team, the kids deserve a lot of credit for winning some games and giving us a chance to hunt a state championship,” said coach LeRose. “The kids gave everything they had.”
“And while you’d like to say you lost to the team that won the state championship three years in a row, I like to think that Cheyenne Mountain expended a heck of a lot of effort against us and didn’t have anything left” for Kent Denver on Saturday night.
Aspen drew three penalties during the game, compared to Cheyenne Mountain’s one. And Cooper’s goal in the first period came with three seconds remaining in a power play called against Aspen for roughing.
“They came in on an odd man rush and [Cooper] had a great shot to the top corner; no way you could fault Jesse Amory. Jesse played an unbelievable game for us, coming up with several big saves,” LeRose said.
“But we never thought we’d never be able to score. We thought we were in it one goal down the whole time; we just kind of ran out of time… That’s the first time we’ve been shut out all season. This team is used to scoring a lot of goals.”
Aspen’s seniors complete their careers with three straight final-four appearances and an overall record of 43-10. (That’s 15-4 this season, 14-3 the last two.)
“It was real disappointing,” said Hansen, who has played with the varsity all three seasons. “Everyone knew we could’ve beaten them, gone all the way to the state title, but we gave everything we could and went out there making sure we had no regrets.”
A week after losing its home opener, the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club made sure to remind its upcoming Mountain League opponents that it’ll still be a difficult test after a 52-31 win on Saturday over the Denver Barbarians.
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