Aspen hockey hangs tough in loss to Cherry Creek

Aspen High School goalie Jacob Wedhorn blocks a shot from Cherry Creek on Friday at the Ice Garden. The Skiers lost, 3-1, in their season opener.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

Not many games can answer questions — or create new ones — quite like the first. Among the questions answered for the Aspen High School hockey team Friday in its season opener against Cherry Creek was whether or not it had a viable goalie.

Early signs point to a resounding yes.

“We did a lot of really good things. Jacob Wedhorn, our goaltender, held us in that game,” AHS coach Dru Lucchesi said. “That was probably the best game I’ve seen him play. It’s amazing what happens when a senior goalie comes in and has confidence of knowing he has the starting job and now he absolutely does. It was really awesome to watch him take that role and he did great.”

Wedhorn was magnificent in net most of the night, but the sheer number of shots against the Skiers was their downfall. Cherry Creek, ranked No. 4 in the state entering the season, rallied from an early deficit to win 3-1 at the Aspen Ice Garden.

The Bruins outshot Aspen nearly five to one, although many of the shots were a byproduct of the Skiers’ specific defensive system.

“If we can keep them to the outside, we will take those low percentage shots all day,” Lucchesi said. “We just got to clean up little things. But once again, for the first game, we were very happy with how we started against a top team in the state.”

Despite the shot disadvantage, the Skiers were the first to draw blood. Good defense from junior Lucas Bensch led to a goal by freshman Max Ufkes late in the first period and Aspen led 1-0 heading into the first intermission.

“That was a great play by Lucas Bensch to stop a ‘D’ zone play,” Lucchesi said. “He’s one of the smartest players on our team. And that led to that goal. Smart ‘D’ zone hockey can lead to great offense, and that’s what happened.”

Penalties and other miscues eventually caught up to the Skiers, however. Cherry Creek scored its first goal midway through the second period on a power play, and took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission with a quick goal following a faceoff late in the period.

The final goal came late in the third period as the Skiers were attempting to pull Wedhorn from goal to gain the man advantage. Poor timing led to an easy breakaway goal for the Bruins.

Cherry Creek (1-0) will play at Valor Christian on Saturday.

Aspen (0-1) will jump into conference play with a trip to Battle Mountain (0-0-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Eagle Ice Rink. The Huskies played to a 5-5 tie against Steamboat Springs on Friday.

“They know they can be a top team in this state,” Lucchesi said of the Skiers. “We proved that tonight. We’ll just go from here and go into Battle Mountain. We got to take care of business tomorrow. Don’t take them lightly and get a win.”