Aspen hockey back on track
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Daniel Doremus insists Aspen’s early-season struggles are a distant memory, for him and the rest of the Skiers hockey team.
It’s hard to argue with the junior, especially after Friday’s performance against Cheyenne Mountain at Lewis Ice Arena. Doremus scored just three minutes, 14 seconds into the first period off a perfect feed from Murphy Fyrwald, and Aspen was off and running. It added one more goal in the first, one in the second and two more in the final 15 minutes. The fifth-ranked Indians twice pulled to within two goals but couldn’t keep pace with a balanced offensive attack that propelled the Skiers to a 5-2 win ” their first since Dec. 12.
If Aspen (2-5 overall, 0-3 5A Foothills) is to stage a late-season postseason push like it has the previous two season, Friday was as good a start as possible, head coach Al Butler said.
“[Life] is good. Beating Cheyenne Mountain is always good,” he added. “You never know how they’re going to come out, but they played the way we asked them to in the first five minutes. That set the tone for the game.”
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The Skiers, who entered Friday having scored two or fewer goals in all six of their games, wasted little time pulling ahead. Defenseman Michael Ryerson corralled a loose puck, shook off contact from an Indians player and passed ahead to Murphy Fyrwald on the right side. Fyrwald started a two-on-one, drew the defender and passed left to Doremus for the one-timer past Cheyenne Mountain goalkeeper Hunter Douglas.
“All we knew was that if we didn’t come out tonight and get a win, our season would be even harder,” Doremus said. “We were able to keep things consistent throughout the game, and that’s rewarding.”
Ryerson pushed the lead to two with 4:13 to play in the first when, just nine seconds after Indians defender Michael Lewis was sent to the penalty box for high sticking, he knocked home a deflection from the side of the net.
The Skiers were far from done. Doremus returned the favor 4:24 into the second period when, after receiving a pass from Coby Langley, he deked a defender and passed off to a wide-open Fyrwald for the easy tap-in.
“I was a little surprised [by how well we started],” Butler said. “I’m sure they weren’t expecting it, given where we are in the standings.”
The Indians (4-3, 1-0 5A Pikes Peak) trimmed their deficit to two in the final minute of the second when Trentt Houghton blew by two defenders up the left side and went low to beat Aspen goalkeeper Zach Ware.
The momentum was short-lived, however, as a Cheyenne Mountain gaffe yielded a Skiers score one minute into the fourth. An Indians defender tried to bat down a fluttering shot with one of his gloves and wound up knocking the puck backward. Aspen’s James Pardee alertly pounced on the loose puck in front of the net and slipped it past Douglas with 13:54 remaining.
The score proved pivotal, as Cheyenne Mountain forward Trevor Isbell connected on a wrister little more than one minute later. The shot was one of the Indians’ rare open looks all night against a stout Skiers defense that benefited greatly from the return of Tommy Mines.
Mines missed the previous three games with a broken hand.
“He was a huge asset out there,” Doremus said. “Obviously, he’s the core of this defense, and having him back there gave others the confidence to rush the puck more. I was impressed with his performance.”
Aspen forward Trey Fox all but sealed the game with 3:12 to play, finishing on assists from Pardee and Ryerson. Five different Skiers scored in the game.
“Depth played a key role for us,” Doremus said. “Getting other people the puck will only help us in the long run.”
Friday’s win puts Aspen in elite company ” at least on paper. The Indians’ previous two losses this season came against Regis Jesuit and Lewis Palmer, the top two teams in the Rocky Mountain News’ latest poll, released this week.
The Skiers, who currently sit in last place in the 13-team Foothills conference, have work to do if they are to be mentioned in the same breath as the state’s elite programs, Butler said.
“I can’t say we’re at that point yet, but that’s something we’re striving for,” the coach added. “We’re trying to get ourselves back to where we feel we deserve to be. … Another win Saturday will certainly have us heading in that direction.”
Aspen looks to run its home record to 3-0 today when it hosts Colorado Academy at 4 p.m.
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