Aspen finishes hockey season with convincing win |

Aspen finishes hockey season with convincing win

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BOULDER – Aspen High hockey coach Al Butler joked Saturday that his team waited until the season’s final weekend to score some goals.

After two months replete with growing pains and frustration, the Skiers ended their season on a positive note Saturday in Boulder. They jumped out to an early two-goal lead against Peak to Peak, scored four times in the final period and cruised to a 7-2 victory – their second in a week, but just their fourth in 19 games.

“You figure we’ve kind of been coming on toward the end here. … We’re starting to see a little more [offensive] creativity,” Butler said. “Some of the younger players finally started to get some confidence and finally got some chances to score. We didn’t have to rely solely on one line.”

Four different players scored in Friday’s road tussle with Kent Denver. Aspen spotted the Devils a 4-0 lead after one period but made things interesting in a 6-4 loss. One day later, six different Skiers found the back of the net.

Colter Birk kicked things off with a score off an assist from Daniel Kelso 3 minutes, 46 seconds into the opening period. Casey Hornburg followed with a shorthanded goal little more than 2 minutes later. Aspen led, 2-1, heading into the first intermission.

Beau Cameron scored the first of his two goals about 6 minutes into the second period to stretch the Skiers’ lead to two.

In the third, Aspen put this game out of reach. It outshot the Pumas, 36-26.

“Once again, we still had our chances early in the game,” Butler said. “Then, we kind of started to bury them.”

Taylor Mayer and Joey Vernier connected on power play goals in the third period’s first 8 minutes. After a Peak to Peak score, Cameron and Daniel Ryerson scored in the final 3-plus minutes.

The Skiers (4-15 overall, 3-10 5A Foothills) averaged little more than two goals per contest this season.

“Early on [this season] it was games we were competitive in. Maybe if we had these types of games, it would’ve given us some confidence,” Butler said.

“The kids continued to work even though we weren’t going to be in the playoffs. … You never know what the mentality is, but this is a young group and they’re very competitive and they just continued to compete. … Give them credit for that.”

Two wins in its final three games (it topped Columbine, 3-1, in last week’s home finale) was not enough to secure the 2007 state champions a berth in the postseason.

Butler cannot remember when the Skiers last missed the playoffs.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever not made the playoffs,” he added. “It will be difficult knowing we’re not there to put our stake in it.”

He continued: “I think the young players now see what they’re truly capable of doing. They know they can compete at this level. … Now it will be about refining some of the systems we’ve been working on all year.

“Maybe we weren’t quite ready this year, but next year I’m sure we’ll be back where we need to be.”

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