Aspen hockey falls in semis |

Aspen hockey falls in semis

The Aspen High hockey team’s bid for a state championship – the one that escaped them last season in a heartbreaking overtime loss in the finals – fell short again last night.

Aspen, the No. 1 seed in the 12-team Colorado High School Hockey League State Playoffs, lost 5-3 to No. 6 Cheyenne Mountain in the state semifinals Tuesday night at the Air Force Academy rink near Colorado Springs.

“The guys were nervous and flat and we just were not playing our ‘A’ game,” said Aspen coach Mark LeRose. “It’s very disappointing to get to this point in the season and play that way, but that’s the reality. They were just nervous.”

Aspen outshot Cheyenne Mountain 29 to 20, enjoyed five power plays to Cheyenne Mountain’s one, but still could not generate offense when the team needed it most.

Aspen hit two posts in the first period, but couldn’t muster any scoring as the teams played to a 0-0 tie entering the second, 15-minute period.

Cheyenne Mountain struck with two goals early in the period, before junior Matt Young scored to cut the deficit to 2-1. Seniors James Ibbotson and Sean Friedland assisted on the goal.

In the third period, Cheyenne Mountain scored to go up 3-1, before senior Ry Neiley twined a goal to reel Cheyenne Mountain back to within striking distance with about five minutes remaining. Again, Ibbotson and Friedland provided assists on the goal.

A minute after the score, however, Cheyenne Mountain was granted a penalty shot after Friedland fell on the puck in the crease. Cheyenne Mountain converted the opportunity, beating Aspen senior goalie Stuart Barwick, but Aspen wasn’t finished yet.

Young scored a power-play goal with a minute remaining to cut Cheyenne Mountain’s advantage to one again, 4-3, but Aspen couldn’t manage anything further even after pulling Barwick from net and adding an extra skater. Cheyenne Mountain cemented their victory with an empty-net goal with ten seconds left.

“It’s very disappointing, especially for the 12 seniors,” said LeRose. “Cheyenne Mountain didn’t out-work us or out-hit us or any of those things. It’s a funny game like that. Sometimes the breaks don’t go your way. But the reality is that if we worked hard for 45 minutes, we would’ve made our breaks. Playing 30 or 45 minutes didn’t cut it tonight.”

With the loss, Aspen concludes its season 15-3 overall.

“You look at the record and you can say it’s a successful season,” LeRose said. “But that third loss came at the wrong time. We know how Sweden feels right now.

“You have certain expectations when you finish first in the regular season, so when you fall short, it’s difficult,” he continued. “We set lofty goals at the beginning of the season, so we’re going to have to regroup because the state championships for club hockey is this weekend. So we don’t have a lot of time to mourn the loss.”

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