Aspen High hockey drops Ralston Valley, will face Heritage in second round

Aspen High hockey hosts Ralston Valley on Tuesday in the first round of the state playoffs at Lewis Ice Arena.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

Dru Lucchesi saw no reason to worry after a period against Ralston Valley. The Aspen High School hockey coach felt confident his players were doing the right things in the state playoff opener and eventually the floodgates would open up.

“We were feeling fine because they were playing good hockey,” Lucchesi said. “We knew with the style of hockey we were playing against them, eventually they would wear down and eventually we would open up gaps and lanes for our guys to go into and we did.”

Tied 1-1 after a period, the No. 11 seed Skiers used an onslaught of goals in the second period to pull away for a 6-3 win over No. 22 seed Ralston Valley on Tuesday at Lewis Ice Arena.

The Mustangs finish the season with a 3-16-1 record.

“They are not as bad as their record shows,” Lucchesi said of Ralston Valley. “They are in the top conference, and you can tell. They were in a couple of tight games.”

Aspen dominated most of the first period, but a late goal by the Mustangs sent the game into the second period all square. The Skiers turned it up a notch from there, scoring three unanswered to lead 4-1 going to the final period.

“It’s a new period. You got to come out hard. Don’t take anything off. If you let up, you are just going to let them back into the game,” AHS senior Jamison Fuentes said. “We played really well as a team, doing what we do best. It really paid off, just shooting on the goalie, going hard. It was fun.”

Ralston Valley snuck in a couple of late goals, but by then the game was no longer in doubt. Fuentes and junior Dominic Lanese each had a pair of goals for the Skiers.

“We had to take it serious, but the boys played really good hockey. They moved the puck well in the first and second,” Lucchesi said. “We got production out of a lot of lines tonight, which is important right now at this time of year.”

The win sends Aspen (13-4-3 overall) into the second round where it will face No. 6 seed Heritage on Friday for the third time this season. The Peak Conference foes met for the first time on Jan. 19 in Aspen, the game ending in a 2-2 tie. In the Feb. 10 rematch on the Front Range, Heritage snuck out a 3-2 overtime victory.

“It’s been tight. We are both really good teams,” Fuentes said. “We’ve seen them enough we know what they are going to do. But they also have that same advantage. So I think we just got to play our game and take it to them. We just got to do what we do best and keep moving the puck fast.”

Friday’s game will start at 12:45 p.m. at The Ice Ranch in Littleton. While it’s officially a neutral site game, The Ice Ranch is where Heritage plays its home games. As one of the top eight seeds, Heritage did not have to play a first-round game.

“We know if we play our game we’ll compete with anybody,” Lucchesi said. “We are going to go down early, get the boys some rest, prepare for that game. If they play like they did tonight, the result will be different from the last two. At this point they got to play lights out three periods every single game.”

The Aspen-Heritage winner will face the winner between No. 14 Pueblo County and No. 3 Valor Christian in Saturday’s quarterfinal game.

For the complete bracket, click here.