Aspen High hockey team hopes a deep senior class will lead to rebound season
Led by a deep senior class two seasons ago, the Aspen High School hockey team finished 14-5-3 in arguably its best season since winning the 2007 state championship. While last year’s senior class had some great individual talent, it didn’t have the numbers and AHS slipped back to an unsatisfying 6-8-4 mark.
With a senior class back in the double digits, coach Dru Lucchesi is hoping for a bounce back season this winter.
“That was an interesting year in terms of we just couldn’t get over the hump and win against the teams we needed to kind of win against,” Lucchesi said of the 2018-19 season. “It definitely helps (having a lot of seniors): size factor, speed factor, knowledge factor. And just being able to throw the stuff at them we need to. They are going to be able to take it a lot quicker and easier fresh out of the gate, because it’s not going to be so unfamiliar to them.”
The Skiers opened their season Wednesday night, losing 6-1 to Battle Mountain at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail. It was a tough situation for Aspen considering it only had about four practices under its belt. On the flip side, the Huskies (2-1) were playing for the third time and coming off an extensive fall season. Battle Mountain was an 11-win team last winter.
“They got a good amount of ice under their feet. It showed yesterday. They were moving pretty well yesterday and their system is pretty set in stone,” Lucchesi said Thursday of the Huskies, who are one spot outside of being ranked in the top 10 through CHSAANow.com this week. “There is a lot of stuff we still need to get through. But the potential is there. It’s just getting rid of a lot of weird habits these kids kind of have. It’s step one. We saw what they can do and now it’s just fixing stuff.”
The biggest loss from last year’s team was Dominic Lanese, who led the team in goals (14) and points (23) during the regular season. He was tied alongside Matthew Rigney and Max Ufkes for the team lead with nine assists.
Also gone is Henry Morrison, who joined Lanese as the two players to score in Aspen’s 5-2 opening-round playoff loss to Kent Denver. AHS also said goodbye to key defenders in Jackson Holmbeck and Ryan Sovich.
“We have a lot of people who are going to step up and fill that role. We are going to have to get points through the whole team, versus just one kid. Which is good, because that’s how it should be,” Lucchesi said of replacing Lanese. “We have a lot of depth this year, which is really exciting.”
Aspen’s list of key returners is a long one with no real standouts. Players like Jack Pevny, Connor Chesner and Rigney were among the first for Lucchesi to point out. But it continued with the likes of Robbie Fitzgerald, Ethan Hunt, Brady Hornburg and Ufkes, among even more. Then there is Logan Soderberg back in net, as well.
This was the sort of depth and seniority the team lacked a season ago.
“We have a lot of good players and a lot of good pieces,” Lucchesi said. “So there is not really one kid that is above all the rest. We just have a solid two, three, three and a half, four lines of good forwards and we have good defense.”
Aspen’s next chance to play will be this weekend when it hosts Crested Butte twice at Lewis Ice Arena. Assuming the Titans can make the trek through the winter storm set to hit the state, varsity games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11:15 a.m. Saturday. There will be junior varsity games prior to both contests.
Crested Butte went 14-6-1 last season and won a playoff game, but did split two late-season contests against Aspen. The Titans are 1-1 this season after splitting two games with Steamboat Springs last week.
“It’s just bringing everybody up to speed and seeing what they kind of do in games,” Lucchesi said. “We really can’t start doing that process until we have a game or a couple of games under our belt and seeing what their tendencies are. And this is a great week for that, playing Battle, which is obviously a good team, and Crested Butte is going to be no pushover either. They played us really tough last year and they are a physical team, so it should be pretty interesting games this weekend.”
After Saturday, Aspen has only one more game before the winter break, a Dec. 20 home matchup with Steamboat Springs at Lewis Ice Arena.
Two new exhibitions open at Aspen’s Red Brick Center for the Arts on Thursday, including their resident artists program, and Tamara Susa’s Disturbance, her photo project on Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.