Aspen hockey clobbers Steamboat, key Friday matchup with Heritage is next
The only real drama in Tuesday’s game against visiting Steamboat Springs came in a 30-second span of the third period. The Aspen High School hockey team had dominated the game, but two goals in 27 seconds brought the Sailors within one with plenty of time remaining.
“During that timeout we just told the kids to keep their cool,” AHS coach Dru Lucchesi said. “The kids showed tremendous heart right there, not letting those two goals affect them.”
The remainder of the contest went much like it did early on, and the Skiers tacked on three more goals to roll to an impressive 7-3 victory over a team that entered the game ranked No. 9 in the state. The win sets up a possibly season-defining showdown with Heritage on Friday.
“All the years I’ve played high school, we haven’t beaten Steamboat, so it’s nice to beat them now,” AHS junior Dominic Lanese said. “I guess these last two games we played really well. We got to carry that into Heritage.”
Aspen led 2-0 early against Steamboat (9-2 overall) before the Sailors scored a power-play goal late in the first period to make it 2-1. The Skiers scored the only goals of the second period — one each from Lanese and Finn Allen — to take a 4-1 lead into the final period.
There, midway through the third period, Steamboat received a power-play goal from Grant McNamara and an even-strength goal from Luke Borgerding moments later and suddenly it was a game again.
After a quick timeout, Aspen returned to form and Jordan Hornburg scored to restart the AHS onslaught and close out the contest.
“The depth we have is very nice,” Lucchesi said. “We need some big-time plays. The great thing I love about this team is we get goals from a lot of people.”
Not a single player scored more than one goal for the Skiers, and only Reece Cohan and Robbie Fitzgerald got to two points. Gage Redman had 19 saves in net for Aspen.
The non-conference win over the Sailors improves AHS to 6-2-2 overall. Friday night at Lewis Ice Arena the Skiers will host Heritage with the conference lead on the line. Aspen is 5-0-2 in Peak Conference play, while Heritage is 10-1 overall and 6-0 in Peak Conference play. Heritage’s lone loss came Dec. 9 to Regis Jesuit, the No. 1-ranked team in the state.
Aspen’s two losses also came back in December, to current No. 4 Cherry Creek and to Regis Jesuit.
“Playing those two teams shows us where we have to be in order to beat those other teams. I think it helps us a lot,” Lanese said. “I’ve played high school since freshman year and this is definitely the strongest I’ve seen us.”
The Skiers also will host Cheyenne Mountain on Saturday afternoon. The Indians are 3-9 overall and next play Friday at Battle Mountain.
“Right now we are progressing game by game and doing the things we need to do,” Lucchesi said. “Like we just told our boys, we can enjoy this one for a second, but we get back to work tomorrow morning and prepare for Friday, because that’s going to be a big game.”
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The Skiers’ latest victim was Vail Mountain School on Monday, a 67-47 non-league rout inside the AHS gymnasium. It was the second time the teams had played in less than a week, as AHS also won in Vail last Tuesday, 40-28. Aspen is in position to possibly host a playoff game next week.