Aspen High hockey rolls by Doherty, heads into break atop conference
Like any coach, Dru Lucchesi would love to have another win or two at this point in the season. Still, as the Aspen High School hockey team heads into its holiday break without a conference loss, it’s certainly not a bad spot to be in.
“It’s really good to come into Christmas break knowing we are top in our conference,” said Lucchesi, the Skiers’ fourth-year head coach. “This start to our year has been really good, starting out 3-2-1 and 3-0-1 in conference. It’s better than I think the last four years.”
Aspen’s third win came Tuesday afternoon, a 9-2 thumping of Doherty (0-6) at the Aspen Ice Garden. The Skiers led 5-0 late into the first period, all even-strength goals, before the Spartans scored on a power play with only three seconds remaining in the period.
“They started clicking and doing everything we asked right away,” Lucchesi said. “That helps, because we need to get off to a better start, and in this game we did.”
AHS then added two more goals in the second period and two in the third to lead 9-1. Doherty’s final goal again came via power play with only seconds remaining in the third period.
The Skiers had seven different players score, led by two goals each from Jordan Hornburg and Dominic Lanese, while Liam Rigney led the team with three assists. Rigney, Hornburg and Lanese all had a team-high three points.
Gage Redman had 15 saves against 17 shots in net for the Skiers. AHS had 39 shots on goal.
“There is still a lot of work to do, but it’s a great win,” Lucchesi said. “I’ll take it with where we are at right now. Giving up power play goals is not ideal, but it’s something we still need to work on.”
It’s been a mixed bag for the Skiers, a preseason top-10 team, through six games. Their two losses came in the Dec. 2 season opener at Cherry Creek (5-1) and Dec. 15 at Regis Jesuit (8-1). Those two teams are currently ranked No. 5 and No. 2 in the state, respectively.
“We learned a lot from them,” Lucchesi said of the losses. “We realized we can hang with those teams, but we can’t do it spending a whole period in the box, and that’s what happened both those games. We learned from it and we moved forward.”
The highlight win to date came Dec. 12 in the team’s only other home game so far, a 5-4 win over Battle Mountain (3-4), the same team that knocked them out of the playoffs a year ago.
AHS also has a 10-2 win over Cheyenne Mountain (2-5) and a scoreless draw at Columbine (4-1-1) on Saturday.
Aspen enters the break 3-0-1 in the eight-team Peak Conference, tied at seven points each with Columbine, which has a conference loss against Resurrection Christian (3-0 overall).
“This is kind of where we wanted to be,” Lucchesi said. “We are expecting to come in and take a ‘W’ every single game we play, no matter who we play. It shows the grit we have and the fire in the belly we have on this team. I think that comes from the huge senior class we have and the presence in the locker room with that.”
Aspen is now off until Friday, Jan. 5, when it plays at Battle Mountain. The Skiers then play at Pine Creek on Jan. 12 before hosting their first home game of 2018 on Jan. 13 against Columbine.
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Peter Arnold’s playing career ended after high school, but his time on the ice continues a few decades later. A longtime USA Hockey official and new Aspen resident, Arnold is searching for the next generation of hockey referees among the youth ranks here in the Roaring Fork Valley.