Aspen hockey drops opener in Vail
Round 1 to Battle Mountain.
Round 2 will be played out in Aspen on Jan. 7.
Round 3 could well come in late February.
But, however many rounds there are, Battle Mountain hockey will take a repeat of Wednesday night’s 5-2 win over Aspen at Dobson Arena in Vail.
Behind excellent special teams, Battle Mountain rolled out to a 5-0 lead ” and 3-0 in the first period ” and cruised to its first win of the season.
The young Aspen team committed numerous costly turnovers that, in the words of Dennis Maruk, Aspen’s new head coach, “was the difference in the game.”
“The kids would’ve loved to have won tonight, no doubt about it,” added Maruk, the rookie Aspen coach and former two-time NHL All-Star. “We just didn’t gel tonight. We’ve gotta cut down on our mistakes and turnovers, and I think we’ll do that and we’ll be fine.
“The next time we play them, we’ll certainly be a better hockey team.”
The first period was a parade to the penalty box and, after two fruitless efforts, the Huskies capitalized on the advantage on what Battle Mountain forward Jason Chase calls, “The Deuce.”
“I call it the deuce because I’m on the boards and Austin (Chow) passes to me,” Chase said. “Austin goes around the net. I give it to P.J. (Bevan) on the point. He gives it back. They’re looking at it going back and forth. Austin just slips back up and gets it to Keith (Denton).”
And, Denton gave Battle Mountain a 1-0 lead.
Minutes later, Battle Mountain was back on the power play. This time it was Bevan to Chow.
“We were working the puck around, getting some movement,” Chow said. “It confused them a little bit. I snuck in. It was team play and I just got it and roofed it.”
The first period ended with an Aspen turnover in its own zone. The Huskies’ Max Miller scooped it up and found Nate Simon for a 3-0 lead.
Aspen’s sophomore goalie, JoJo Hernandez, got the loss in net. Battle Mountain outshot Aspen 47 to 20 over three periods. Battle Mountain was 3-for-8 on the power play, while Aspen went 1-for-8.
Battle Mountain’s Miller was on the scoring end of things on yet another power play in the second period. Keegan Keltner worked the puck in the left corner and found Miller, who roofed it for a 4-0 lead.
Battle Mountain’s fifth goal provided some drama because there’s a question of who scored it. Bevan launched an absolute rocket which clanked off the right post. He got credit for the goal, but there’s a good chance that Chow was there to poke in the rebound. Your mileage may vary.
“It’s hard not to have offensive balance when you have that many guys who can put the puck in the net,” Kersey said. “We had timely scoring from them. There were a few other opportunities we could have capitalized on and we didn’t. We take them when we can get them.”
Aspen rallied back in the third with a nice goal during a two-man advantage. Senior Robert Parker threaded a nifty pass to junior Hunter Baar, who buried the shot.
The Skiers scored two minutes later Tyler Horn went 5-hole on Huskies goalie Karl Eklund.
“We’re young as a team and they’re an experienced team with 12 seniors,” said Aspen’s Maruk. “We outscored ’em and outshot ’em in the third period, which is nice, and I thought with our skill and feistiness we could’ve taken advantage of a few more opportunities elsewhere, but that’ll come.
“And being young, with all that spirit and enthusiasm, can lead to some turnovers and mistakes. But if we can cut down on that, get a little more experience behind us, it’s the difference in the game. We’ll see next time.”
Aspen hosts its home opener on Friday night at the Lewis Ice Arena (at the Aspen Recreation Center) against Kent Denver. The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Aspen hosts Air Academy at 1:45 p.m. at the Lewis sheet.
“I just got a little taste of the Vail/Battle Mountain rivalry,” Maruk said. “From what I’d heard, it was going to be jam-packed, everyone screaming. But it wasn’t. There were a lot of open seats. But hopefully that’s the way it’s going to be for our home-opener Friday night.”
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