Aspen High hockey hosts season finales at Ice Garden
Aspen Times Sportswriter
After stumbling against previously winless Mitchell on Saturday, the Aspen High hockey team returns to the Aspen Ice Garden today to open the final weekend of regular-season play.
In the Colorado High School Hockey League standings, Aspen, 12-2 on the season, can finish no worse than second with a pair of wins, no worse than fourth with a pair of losses. In either case, Aspen will be seeded no worse than fourth in the 12-team state playoffs, which means an automatic bye to the round of eight.
Today, Aspen hosts Palmer (7-6) at 2:15 p.m. On Saturday, Aspen faces off with Regis (6-5-1) at 11:15 a.m.
“Both teams are playoff teams; they’re good clubs,” said Aspen coach Mark LeRose. “And as we found out in the Mitchell game” – when Aspen became the one win in Mitchell’s 1-12 record – “anyone can beat us.
“Fortunately, we had some guys out with injuries last weekend, and they’ll be back this weekend,” he continued, referring to Reid Hansen, Joey Carlson and Eric Strauss.
For Aspen’s seniors, Saturday’s game will mark the final time they’ll take the ice together at the Aspen Ice Garden. “They’ll be ready to play,” LeRose said. “This is it. For many of them, they’ve been together since they’ve been Mites, so this is 10, 12 years coming to an end.”
Following Friday’s game, Aspen’s seniors will be recognized, LeRose said.
The best-case scenario for Aspen, LeRose said, would be a pair of wins to usher out memories of the Mitchell game and usher in the playoffs, where Aspen lost in the finals in overtime last season.
“At the beginning of the season, one of our goals was to finish 14-2, and we’ve put ourselves in a position to accomplish that,” LeRose said. “So if you’d asked me back then if I’d be happy going into the final weekend at 12-2, I’d say yes. But the team realizes they’re in a bit of effort-debt in my eyes, so I’d expect a lot of hard work out of our team Friday and Saturday.”
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This is the 53rd Aspen Ruggerfest, a year delayed after the 2020 tournament was canceled. It’s one of the country’s most prestigious and longest-running tournaments of its kind still left and draws in high-level players from all over the world.