Aspen hangs on in state hockey opener
ASPEN The Skiers were flying high in the second period of Fridays 5A state playoff opener with Battle Mountain. In the final minutes, they were hanging on for dear life. No. 11 Aspen broke open a one-all game with three second period goals, one each from Milo Stark, Daniel Doremus and Trey Fox to take a commanding lead. The No. 6 Huskies answered back with two goals in a four-minute stretch at the end of the second and beginning of the third the latter on a two-man advantage. The deficit proved too large to overcome, however. Doremus scored twice and assisted on two others and goalkeeper Zach Ware stood tall down the stretch, lifting the Skiers to a 4-3 win and a quarterfinal berth.Aspen (14-6) will square off with third-seeded Lewis Palmer today at 4 p.m. at Lewis Ice Arena. The Rangers topped No. 14 Standley Lake, 3-2, in Fridays early game. I dont know how Im going to sleep tonight. Im so excited, Doremus said afterward. We had a lot of help from the fans, and that pumped us up. I was really hoping to have a big night. Luckily, I was able to find the net.The junior beat Huskies goalkeeper Kalen Burnett 5:18 into the first period when he picked off a pass deep in Battle Mountains zone, faded toward the goal, faked a crossing pass and went low for the score. After Huskies forward Mitchell Lammert squared the game two minutes before the first intermission off a pass from Spencer Fox, Doremus was in the middle of the action once more, helping spark a three-goal outburst in the second period. First, he fired a shot with 12:44 to play that deflected off Burnett and out to a wide-open Milo Stark, who rattled the net with a strong shot from beyond the blue line. Little more than four minutes later, Doremus lept over a defender on an acrobatic move from right of the net, and managed to sneak a shot past a host of Battle Mountain defenders, stretching the lead to three. After two Huskies were whistled for holding and cross checking 22 seconds apart with about five minutes to play, the Skiers strung together some strong passes to take a commanding lead. Senior Murphy Fyrwald dumped the puck off to Doremus who fed a cutting Fox for the easy lay-in, bringing a raucous Aspen contingent to its feet.While they were wearing away jerseys and occupying the visitors bench at Lewis Ice Arena, where theyve lost just once in 13 games this season, there was little doubt the Skiers fed off their home-ice advantage.It was a great crowd, and we played the way we can play, Aspen head coach Al Butler said. We moved the puck well and converted our chances. We brought it all tonight.But the Skiers still had to sweat it out late. Two minutes before the second intermission, Huskies forward Jack Sunderland swooped in from the left side, sprawled out and beat Ware to pull his team to within two goals. The physical contest then got the best of the Skiers, as Fyrwald was whistled for a slash and Michael Ryerson for high sticking in the periods final seven seconds.Consequently, Battle Mountain had a 5-on-3 advantage to start the deciding period.We were hitting on all cylinders in the second, but it unraveled there a little bit, Butler said. Thats not the way you want to start the third period.The Huskies took advantage. Forward Guy Garth corralled a loose puck that was deflected out of the crease and knocked it home, cutting the lead to 4-3 with 13:37 remaining.With seven minutes to play, Battle Mountain again went on the attack after a Skiers penalty. The best chance for the equalizer came from forward Geoff Funk, who drilled a shot at Wares midsection, then controlled the rebound at close range. Ware turned both shots away.One minute later, the goalkeeper was caught out of position on a Huskies shot attempt, but the puck sailed mere inches wide of the right post, drawing a collective sigh from the large crowds black- and red-clad onlookers.Those were the longest 10 minutes of my life, Doremus joked. I was really nervous. There was one time when I lost sight of the puck and I saw Zach on his back diving to make a save. We were lucky to hang on.Battle Mountain pulled its goalie with 44 seconds to play in a last-ditch effort to knot the score and force overtime. It failed to get a shot on net, however, and Stark flicked the puck into the Huskies zone as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the celebration started.The Skiers have won 13 of 14 since going 1-5 in December. A win today will secure a trip to the state semifinals for the second time in three seasons. Aspen won its lone state title in 2007.Its going to be a big challenge, Doremus said, but if we have the same crowd and the same intensity, I think we can give them a run for their firstname.lastname@example.org
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