Aspen wins 10th straight entering playoffs

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It was truly Seniors’ Night at the Aspen Ice Garden.

Five different seniors scored as the Aspen High School hockey team topped visiting Regis 5-2 in the last game of the regular season on Saturday.

The win also came on a night that will probably stand as Aspen High’s finale at the Ice Garden. The scheduled completion of the Aspen Recreation Center means the team will play all future games at the Maroon Creek Road facility, rather than the venerable downtown rink.

“It was a pretty emotional time for the kids who have grown up playing at the Garden,” Aspen coach Mark LeRose said of Saturday’s game.

Saturday’s win also capped off a 10-game winning streak for Aspen – one that could result in a top seeding in the upcoming state playoffs.

AHS began its winning weekend on Friday with a quick 10-3 rout of visiting Steamboat Springs. LeRose called the game “one of our best team efforts of the year.”

LeRose credited the efforts of senior forward Anders Head, who took “probably the biggest, most momentum-changing hit I’ve ever seen in high school hockey” and recovered to score two goals on the night. That hit, which floored Head early in the first period of Friday’s game, also served as a morale booster for the Skiers, LeRose said.

The morale boost apparently carried over to Saturday night’s game. Though the Skiers suffered the usual pregame jitters, the team still pulled off a strong offensive effort, LeRose said.

“Being Senior Night, we had a little bit of nerves,” LeRose said. “I’d say they were a little bit nervous in the first [period], a little bit undisciplined in the second and we had a good third period where we played our systems pretty well.”

Aspen opened Saturday’s game with a goal by Tim Hagist just 19 seconds into play, but Regis answered with a goal of its own less than a minute later. Skiers Reid Hansen, Jamie Walbert and Matt Young then registered goals over the next two periods to give Aspen a 4-2 lead.

However, the third period provided what must have been the Skiers’ most celebrated goal of the night. A late penalty forced Aspen to take the ice with just four players, leading Regis to pull their goalie from the game and substitute a sixth skater.

Skier senior Michael Reveal found a small hole in the Regis defense for a quick pass to senior Joey Carlson. Carlson’s goal shot hit the empty net for the last point of the night.

Aspen improved to 13-3 overall with the win, while Regis dropped to 10-6 (and Steamboat fell to 8-8).

“At one point we were 3-3,” LeRose said of Aspen’s early season troubles. “We said we hoped to finish the season 13-3 and we accomplished that goal.”

The last of the regular-season games around the state are scheduled for Wednesday, meaning the top 16 teams in the state will be seeded for the playoffs on Thursday. LeRose hopes Aspen is seeded in the top five, perhaps higher.

“The argument can be made that we could be the second seed,” LeRose said. “We played in the toughest conference and beat the toughest team, Cheyenne Mountain.”

The first round of the state playoffs is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21-22.