AHS hockey skids into Xmas break
Since opening the season with back-to-back blowout victories Dec. 6-7, the Aspen High hockey has hit the skids, losing its second straight last Friday 3-2 at Kent Denver.
The week before, Dec. 13, Aspen was handed an 8-5 loss at Battle Mountain, dropping AHS to 2-2 on the season. It’s the same number of losses Aspen carried into the postseason last year, at 14-2, and one fewer than the Skiers’ final record, at 15-3, that ended in the final four of the state tournament.
“Now we know where we stand ? we’re two and two,” said AHS coach Mark LeRose. “And it’s pretty average to be a .500 hundred team in this league. It’s not up to my standards or what the team expects.”
Against Kent Denver, the teams skated tieless through the first period, then Kent Denver punished Aspen in the second with three unanswered goals. Aspen responded with two goals in the third period, but rallied too late to recover.
“What this team needs to realize is that you can’t spot good teams three goals like we’ve done the past two games,” the coach said. “They’ve turned on the switch too late, and just run out of time, but that doesn’t cut it against good teams.”
Late in the game, Aspen enjoyed a 6-on-4 advantage, the result of a power play and a pulled goalie, but couldn’t finish. The loss to Kent Denver mirrored the earlier letdown at Battle Mountain, LeRose said.
“The same scenario played out: we’re within a goal, we’ve got a power play, we’ve pulled our goalie and we’ve got a bunch of good opportunities, but no one could finish,” he said.
In Aspen’s favor, all four games to date have been nonleague contests. The 19-team Colorado High School Hockey League shifted to a three-division format this year, meaning instead of playing every team once, Aspen will play the six other teams in the Mountain Division twice, including Coronado, Steamboat, Cheyenne Mountain, Rampart, Wasson and Regis, beginning with Regis in Denver on Jan. 4.
At the conclusion of the regular season, a committee will select seeds for the 16-team playoffs, up from 12 last year, meaning a .500 record will be good enough for a berth. However, a top seed, which Aspen enjoyed as the No. 1 in last year’s tourney, will now be tougher to come by.
“It’s been a difficult December, we’ve had a lot of games between club hockey and high school,” LeRose said. “Once the New Year comes around we’ll be healthier and hopefully better able to focus on what we want to accomplish.”
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Katelyn Maley was the first across the finish line on Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Event Center, winning the Class 3A girls state championship in 18 minutes, 39 seconds. She came in more than 34 seconds ahead of second place.