Boys lax: Aspen tops Battle Mountain for league title
The Aspen Times
The Skiers turned greedy, by design.
The Aspen High School boys lacrosse team monopolized the momentum and the scoring in the second half, beating rival Battle Mountain 14-6 on Friday evening to win the Mountain League title.
The Skiers, locked in a 4-4 halftime tie with the Huskies, cashed in the momentum monopoly with six consecutive goals in the third period in front of a large and lively crowd at Aspen School District Stadium.
“At halftime, we just said to keep up the tempo, keep the fast pace,” Aspen senior Ryan Fitzgerald said. “When we pick it up and work on the tempo, that’s when we play well as a team.”
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Fitzgerald, who scored one goal and added two assists in Aspen’s 6-0 run in the third quarter, said the Skiers relished the pressure of the league championship game.
“I think we’ve had a tough schedule this year. We’ve been able to take that pressure,” said Fitzgerald, who finished with three goals and three assists as the Skiers improved to 13-2 overall. They finished 7-0 in conference games.
Aspen senior John Heaphey started Aspen’s spending spree in the third quarter when he scored on a 360-spin move to give the Skiers a 5-4 lead.
Battle Mountain subsequently forced the Skiers into a series of penalties and pressured the AHS defense.
But Aspen regained the momentum with a shorthanded transition goal with goalie Arthur Kelso leading an attack. Kelso passed to Harry Ferguson, who passed to Fitzgerald, who scored for a 6-4 Aspen lead.
Thirty seconds later, Aspen senior Tyler Tick scored the first of two in a row — assisted by Jonathan Wells and then Fitzgerald.
Heaphey scored again, and Ferguson scored on an assist from Fitzgerald to close Aspen’s greedy third quarter.
Tick, who scored two more goals in the fourth quarter, finished with a game-high five goals and two assists.
Ferguson had three goals and two assists. Heaphey had two and two — goals and assists.
Burke Daily also scored as the Skiers won their ninth consecutive game.
“In the third quarter, we kind of imploded a little bit,” Battle Mountain head coach Jerry Nichols said. “One thing we knew we had to do against Aspen is stop the fast break, stop the transition goal. That’s what we failed to execute today.”
The Huskies, with a scoring explosion of their own, scored four consecutive goals to tie the game in the first half.
Cole Delain got the Huskies on the scoreboard after taking a pass from Clayton Davis following an Aspen turnover.
Delain passed to teammate Charlie Morrow for a man-advantage goal late in the first quarter.
Wyatt Dilling and Morrow scored for Battle Mountain in the second period for the 4-4 halftime tie.
“We came out, and we were ready to play,” Aspen head coach Mike Goerne said. “We were prepared, and it showed right away.”
But, he said, after the Skiers got the 4-0 lead, they relaxed.
“We got a little relaxed, more relaxed that we wanted to,” Goerne said. “(Battle Mountain) got some good breaks. They got some good odd-man goals. And they got a good man-up goal.”
The Skiers’ ability to pull away in the second half was a tribute to the players, Goerne said.
“Guys are supporting each other, picking each other up on the field,” he said. “I’m proud of how they came together as a group.”
“Aspen played a helluva game today,” the Battle Mountain head coach said. “They came out and took it to us in the second half. Mr. (Tyler) Tick out there is very, very good. I’m very impressed with that young man. He’s one of the best attackmen we’ve ever seen.”
The Huskies (11-4) added fourth-quarter goals by Jack Nichols and Mike Lange.
“We’ve just got to regroup and get ready for the playoffs,” Jerry Nichols said. State brackets are expected Monday.
The Skiers likely will host a first-round state playoff game Wednesday at Aspen School District Stadium.
“Today, everyone got assists, everyone got goals,” said Fitzgerald, the son of Kirsten and Steve Fitzgerald, as the Skiers await their playoff foe. “That’s what it takes. Everybody has to contribute.”
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Herman is the freestyle skiing winner of the Summit Daily’s Peak Performers project, which honors the greatest athletes and most influential figures in Summit county ski and snowboard history.