Aspen hockey rallies to force 4-4 draw against No. 2 Valor Christian in opener

Aspen hockey vs. Valor Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, at Lewis Ice Arena. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times).
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Despite having played a brilliant game on Tuesday, Logan Soderberg wasn’t happy. He slammed his stick to the ice, and again against the goal post, all in disgust after allowing what could have been the game-winning goal for visiting Valor Christian.

About two minutes later, the Aspen High School junior goalie watched from the bench as his teammates bailed him out — just as he had done for them all game long.

“I got on the bench, sat down, put my hands over my face and suddenly I look over and everyone is screaming. The biggest weight lifted off my shoulders and I could not believe it,” Soderberg said. “It’s absolutely terrifying. Every single time I get pulled out of there, my anxiety goes through the roof.”

It was a goal by Matthew Rigney with only 44 seconds to play in regulation that brought the game back to even. A five-minute overtime period resulted in nothing more, leading to a 4-4 draw against the preseason No. 2 Eagles at Lewis Ice Arena in the season opener for both hockey teams.

Soderberg came up big, recording 43 saves as the Skiers were outshot 47-19 in the game.

“Logan was unreal,” fifth-year AHS head coach Dru Lucchesi said. “He knew coming in it was going to be his net. I was very proud of him that he actually stepped up and took it. You never know how some of these first games are going to go.”

Aspen is coming off arguably its best season since winning the 2007 state championship. The Skiers went 14-5-3 last winter and made the state quarterfinals, where they lost to this same Valor Christian team, 4-2. Valor made the state title game last season, losing to Regis Jesuit in the final, 2-0.

However, the Skiers lost 13 seniors off that squad and entered this season with a lot of unknowns on the ice. Opening up against the preseason No. 2 and state runner-up wasn’t exactly ideal, but coming away with a draw is certainly a confidence booster.

“Before the game, we knew we had the potential to go out there and beat this team,” Soderberg said. “We never for a second doubted ourselves. We knew we were the underdogs going into that game and we knew if everybody did their part and played their hardest we would get something good out of it.”

Valor led 1-0 after Colby Browne’s goal midway through the first period. But the Skiers answered with a pair of goals barely a minute apart — one each from seniors Dominic Lanese and Henry Morrison — that gave AHS a 2-1 lead at the first intermission.

The Eagles answered with two goals in the second period, one coming shorthanded and the other on a power play, to lead 3-2 over Aspen heading into the third period.

“I feel like maybe some of our veterans, they held on to that last playoff game last year, but they kept going at them,” Lucchesi said. “We had a feeling coming in that we thought this team was better than the one we had last year. Just the talent we have on offense this year, we have a different style of team this year. It’s a style that can really help keep up with a team like this.”

Aspen junior Jack Pevny made it 3-3 with a touch under 10 minutes to play. That score held until Valor’s Evan Pahos snuck one in past Soderberg with only 2:48 to play, leading to Aspen having to desperately pull its goalie in the final minute.

That’s when Rigney managed to get one back and send the game into overtime.

“Unbelievable,” Soderberg said. “Before this game we had tons of people thinking we were going to get absolutely destroyed by Valor, but I think all of us in that locker room knew we had potential and now that we’ve shown that to everybody, we can prove to everyone and ourselves even more that this team is capable of a championship.”

Aspen (0-0-1) will next host Summit on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Lewis Ice Arena. Valor (0-0-1) plays Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Battle Mountain.