Aspen hockey ousted in state quarterfinals |

Aspen hockey ousted in state quarterfinals

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The Rolling Stones’ “Rock and a Hard Place” blared on the Lewis Ice Arena’s speakers during the second intermission in Saturday’s 5A state quarterfinals.

For the 11th-seeded Skiers, the music selection could not have been more suitable.

Third-seeded Lewis Palmer caught Aspen off guard early, scoring twice in the game’s first 4 minutes, 21 seconds. The 5A Pikes Peak conference-champion Rangers erupted for three more scores during the second period on just 10 shots and cruised to a 5-1 victory.

They handed Aspen just its second loss on home ice in 14 games and nabbed a semifinal berth and a trip to Colorado Springs’ World Arena for next weekend’s Frozen Four.

“They put pressure on us at every turn,” Skiers head coach Al Butler said. “We watched them play [Friday], and they were much different tonight. … We were a little back on our heels at the start.”

Lewis Palmer (18-3), which escaped with a 3-2 win over No. 14 Chatfield on Friday, wasted little time seizing control of Saturday’s quarterfinal. Joe Pierce shook free behind the Aspen net two minutes into the game, then fired a perfect pass to cutting teammate Riley Budd for the easy score.

Little more than three minutes later, Rangers forward Blake Cogburn split two defenders on a run up the middle of the ice and corralled a pass from defenseman Brandon Roseboro. Cogburn then beat Skiers goalkeeper Zach Ware with a well-placed shot into the bottom right corner.

The situation was hardly foreign to Aspen (14-7), which rallied from two goals down with three unanswered to top Kent Kenver on Jan. 31. They could not mount a similar comeback Saturday, however.

Three minutes into the second, Aspen’s David Cottrell and Trey Fox were whistled for penalties just 38 seconds apart. The Rangers capitalized on their two-man advantage 28 seconds later, when Zach Bever took a shot on net and teammate Greg Bryant knocked the deflection past Ware.

Cogburn cut to the middle on a 5-on-4 advantage with 3:56 remaining and went high for the goal, stretching the lead to four and silencing the large Aspen crowd. With one minute remaining before the second intermission, Lewis Palmer was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce on a face-off deep in the Skiers’ end. The puck rolled right to Bryant, who flipped a backhanded shot into an open net.

Aspen’s three goals in the second period Friday helped them surge past Battle Mountain. Saturday, that same period all but ended their bid for a second state crown in three years.

“They came at us hard,” Butler said. “They forechecked aggressively and were aggressive in the neutral zone. Our guys didn’t have the time or space they were accustomed to.”

Skiers forward Daniel Doremus, who Friday had two goals and two assists, helped Aspen avoid being shut out for the first time all season. The junior controlled the face-off with 11:22 remaining in the game and beat Rangers goalkeeper Brent Schwarz.

Aspen went on the attack in the final period and ultimately outshot Lewis Palmer, 21-20. But it was hampered by untimely penalties in the final 15 minutes and could pull no closer than four.

“We came out and played hard in that third period,” Butler said. “We just lost our composure. … This is always tough.”

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