Aspen loses shocker
Before the high school state hockey playoffs, Aspen head coach Bryan Ganz stressed that anything can happen in the post season. But nobody could have guessed that Aspen would be hit with a five-minute major penalty in the beginning of the third period with the score locked at 1-1 against Bishop Machebeuf in a quarterfinal matchup Saturday at the ARC’s Lewis Ice Arena.
The Buffaloes would capitalize on the lengthy power play and take a 2-1 lead over the Skiers with 11:39 remaining in the third period. Machebeuf would eventually run away with a 3-1 victory. “We got a bad break, and we were never able to get back on track,” an emotional Ganz said after the game. Machebeuf took the lead in the first period after Bret Wilday snuck the puck past Aspen goalie JoJo Hernandez during a scrum in front of the net.
The Skiers were down 1-0 at the end of the first period, but were given a two-minute, two-man advantage to start the second period after a pair of Buffalo players were called for unsportsmanlike conduct and roughing after the horn sounded. Aspen couldn’t capitalize on the power play, but six seconds after the penalty ended, Wylie Melberg beat Machebeuf’s goalie Wren Arbuthnel with a top-shelf wrist shot to even the score. The two teams played scoreless hockey until the third period, which was poised to be battle. But with 13:34 remaining in the third, Machebeuf’s Wilday was drilled from behind into the boards by Tyler Moore. Aspen was slapped with a five-minute major and Moore, a freshman, was ejected from the game. Nick Embree would give Machebeuf a 2-1 lead two minutes into the power play.
And as Ganz said, Aspen was never able to recover. The Skiers continued to pound away, and had numerous chances to tie the score, but the puck never found the inside of the net. “Obviously the call was justified,” Ganz said. “That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”Machebeuf would add an empty net goal with 17 seconds remaining to put Aspen away for good.
Aspen, seeded third in the 16-team tournament, was hosting the first two rounds of the playoffs for the first time in school history. The Skiers beat 14th seeded Summit 5-1 on Friday night to advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals. Machebeuf, seeded 6th, knocked off the 11th seed Steamboat 4-3 on Friday night to advance. The Buffaloes will play in the semi-finals at the World Arena in Colorado Springs this Friday. “All I can say is it was a great season, and I give the kids a lot of credit,” Ganz said. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.