Aspen High hockey expects a deep playoff run with its talented senior class
Since winning the 2007 state championship, the Aspen High School hockey team has more or less hovered around a .500 overall record despite consistently making the playoffs. This winter, fourth-year coach Dru Lucchesi believes the team can go far beyond its recent mediocrity.
“We think our team this year is very well improved over last year,” Lucchesi said. “We want to be a top-10 team in the state, all year. We want to stay there and we want to be well above .500. We want to win more playoff games. We want to get to the quarterfinals and the semis. That’s our goal.”
The Skiers finished 8-11-1 overall last season after going 10-9 in each of Lucchesi’s first two seasons. They made the playoffs as a No. 19 seed in 2016-17, losing 2-1 to No. 14 seed Battle Mountain in the first round.
One reason Lucchesi feels confident is a deep senior class, the first senior class he has led from start to finish as the team’s varsity coach. Lucchesi was an assistant with AHS for two seasons prior to taking over the head coaching position.
“We have lots of seniors, which is nice, but a lot of good sophomores as well,” Lucchesi said. “We have more offensive firepower this year than I think we’ve had in the past. And our (defensive)-core is much better than we’ve had in the past.”
Aspen’s biggest subtraction from a season ago came with the graduation of honorable mention all-state goalie Jacob Wedhorn. Sophomores Logan Soderburg and Gage Redman are vying to fill his spot.
The team also graduated forward Joel Rothman, who is playing for the Steamboat Wranglers of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, but otherwise returns the heart of its team. Reece Cohan, then a junior, led the team with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) last season, while Rothman was second with 15 points (nine goals, six assists).
“We could honestly probably suit five lines and compete in varsity, no problem,” Lucchesi said. “It’s an encouraging year, but you never know until you start playing the games.”
There is plenty of external hype to go with the internal hype. Aspen is opening the season ranked No. 9 in the state in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s official rankings. Defending state champion Monarch leads the preseason list, while last year’s runner-up Regis Jesuit is No. 2.
Aspen will start its season at 3:10 p.m. Saturday at preseason No. 4 Cherry Creek, a state semifinalist a year ago. The teams opened the season against each other last year as well, with Cherry Creek escaping with a 2-1 win in Aspen.
“Honestly, we like it. It gives us an idea of where we are at and where some of the other top teams in the state are,” Lucchesi said of the difficult start. “Obviously we have high expectations and expect a lot, but building a team and getting team chemistry and those factors are huge for us in these early weeks. We got to stay with our game plan and hopefully it works out.”
Following Saturday’s game, Aspen is off until Dec. 9 when it plays at Cheyenne Mountain, unranked to begin the year. Then the Skiers will host Battle Mountain in their home opener on Dec. 12 at Lewis Ice Arena, a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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