Aspen hockey outlasts Summit
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Officially eliminated from postseason contention, the Aspen hockey team was reduced to playing spoiler against visiting Summit on Tuesday night.
The Skiers filled that role admirably. They twice overcame one-goal deficits in the early going, then withstood a goal and a flurry of Tigers shots in the final moments to preserve a 4-3 victory.
In the process, they extinguished Summit’s playoff hopes; The Tigers had to win Tuesday and Friday against Monarch to nab the 5A Foothills’ eighth and final berth.
“That’s kind of how we approached the game. We couldn’t make (the playoffs) obviously, but we wanted to make sure we played a good game and try to spoil it for somebody else,” Aspen head coach Al Butler said. “We did.”
The Skiers secured this victory – their first since Jan. 14 – with stellar play down the stretch.
Daniel Kelso put the home team ahead for good about 40 seconds into the third period, when he skated behind the net and ripped a high liner for a score.
Aspen took advantage of a slew of penalties to pad its lead. With 10:17 remaining, Summit was whistled for three fouls at once – tripping, high sticking and an unsportsmanlike call against head coach Chris Ruhly. Soon after, Kyle Boucher drilled a shot from just inside the blue line that beat Tigers goaltender Tyrus Vanmatre.
Summit (9-8-0) did not go quietly, however. It pulled to within one on Mitchell Stashick’s goal with 1:56 to play, prompting an Aspen timeout, then flooded the Skiers’ zone in the final minute.
While a few tense moments ensued, goaltender Patrick Severy, who replaced John Piccinati early in the second period, and the Skiers defense stood tall.
“(During the timeout,) I just basically told them to get the puck in deep and send one guy in and lock up the wingers,” Butler said. “We didn’t quite manage that when we got the puck over that red line. … We got a little sloppy and were running around too much, but the puck stayed out of the net.”
Aspen, which Saturday squandered an early lead in a loss to high-powered Resurrection Christian, was battling from behind at the outset Tuesday. Drake Blass swooped in and slipped a shot past Piccinati at 10:36 in the opening period, giving the Tigers the early lead.
Gus Gregory scored in traffic about seven minutes later for the Skiers, who outshot Summit, 14-6, in the first 17 minutes.
They failed to generate a shot in the first six-plus minutes of the second period, however. Consequently, they found themselves trailing once more after Blass scored from close range off assists from Peter Grotemeyer and Jack Nevicosi.
Aspen (6-10-2) squared things once more about two minutes later, when a Cole Bond shot bounded off Vanmatre’s pads and to Boris Lindenau, who was rewarded for alertly crashing the net.
“We have (10) seniors on this team. Obviously, this is their last few games and you figure they don’t want to go out on a losing note, so I knew they would come out hard,” Butler said. “The rest of the guys supported them.”
The Skiers will look to close out the season with consecutive wins Friday, when they host Battle Mountain. The puck is slated to drop at 7 p.m.
X Games is back for its 22nd consecutive year at Buttermilk Ski Area starting Friday, with many of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders set to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and knucklehuck over three days.