AMHL finals open tonight |

AMHL finals open tonight

In the first best-of-three championship series in the over 25-year history of the Aspen Men’s Hockey League, No. 1 seed Wily Coyotes will be facing off with No. 2 Little Annie’s for the coveted Pell Cup.

Game 1 is slated for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Aspen Ice Garden. As usual, admission is free and the public is invited to attend. Game 2 is scheduled for Friday at 8:15 p.m. and Game 3, if necessary, starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s always been a one-game final, but everyone wants to be truly tested, where the winner truly is the winner,” said Wily Manering, the AMHL league president and a player with the Wily Coyotes team. “In a three-game series, the best team is going to win – it’s not going to be a one game fluke.

“And three games in three nights, that’s a good test,” Manering continued. “You’re going to have to work really hard to win this series.”

The No. 1 Wily Coyotes, a team that lost to Little Annie’s three years ago in its only appearance in the Pell Cup finals, advanced to the championship game with a 5-2 win over No. 5 Team Sweden on Tuesday night. Todd Hartley and Manering each scored a pair of goals to cement the victory. Ricky Golden added one goal, and John Thompson, Cory Hardison, Clark Bernstein and Rob Hutton contributed assists. Wily Coyotes goalie Steve Majeres recorded the win.

“Steve played strong, and our defense played well,” Manering said.

Meanwhile, the two-time defending Pell Cup champions, Little Annie’s, rallied from an 0-2 deficit to top No. 3 Al Beyer Design 5-2 in the second semifinal game Tuesday night. Keith Howie and Hans Erickson scored two goals apeice.

“The seminfals were good, tough games with solid refereeing,” Manering said, crediting refs Eric Grueter and Rob Donatucci for a job well done.

“They’re letting the boys play playoff hockey – wide open and rough. The refs don’t want to be a reason why a team wins or loses, so it’s real playoff-style hockey,” Manering said.

During the 16-game AMHL season, Wily Coyotes stole three-of-four games from Little Annie’s. However, Manering isn’t overly confident about his Wily Coyotes’ chances.

“Keith and Hans, those are two guys we’ll have to try to put a muzzle on,” Manering said. “And Millard Zimet, the goaltender for Little Annie’s, is going to be very tough to beat. He really played well Tuesday night. He let in an initial two goals then shut them down the rest of the way.”

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