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Comeback kids strike again

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
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ASPEN There was disbelief on the faces and in the voices of the Aspen hockey players following the final buzzer Thursday as they filed into the locker room.”A lot of us were saying, ‘Did that just happen?'” senior Matt Cooper said. It did happen. Again.Aspen, facing a two-goal, third-period deficit for a second consecutive game, rebounded in dramatic fashion against Regis. And, in a 5A Foothills conference clash between one-loss teams, the Skiers scored three goals in the first four minutes of the third, and four goals total in the period, to come out on top on senior night, 5-3.

“There was no sense in getting all excited [about the deficit], because the harder you grip the stick the harder it is to play,” Aspen head coach Al Butler said. “If you go down by two goals in some games, you might not come back. It’s good to know we can.”Aspen (12-3 overall, 8-1 conference), which rallied Saturday to beat Chatfield, 6-5, trailed 3-1 with 15 minutes to play Thursday. The Skiers, who opened the third period on the power play, wasted little time – just 23 seconds – cutting into the deficit. Junior forward Tyler Moore one-timed a pass from senior Ryder Fyrwald from near the blue line.Fyrwald tied the game two minutes later. He controlled a loose puck off the boards, deked Raiders goaltender David Nowicki, then fired a backhand shot into the top corner. The Skiers’ good fortunes continued, and, with 10:55 to play, Cooper put them ahead for good. Sophomore Tommy Mines found some open space and fired a strong shot. The puck deflected off Nowicki’s pads and right to Cooper.

Senior Nicky Anastas scored an empty-net goal with 21 seconds to seal the victory for Aspen, which is 8-0-1 in its last nine games. The Skiers, tied for second in the conference with Standley Lake, are one game behind undefeated Ralston Valley.While the end result was promising, the first 20 minutes were far from encouraging for the Skiers. Goaltender Kody Hornburg deflected a shot from Corbin Fitzimmons six minutes into the first period. Nick Carey was perfectly positioned to corral the puck and sneak it past Hornburg for the score. Despite being outshot 7-3, the Raiders took a 1-0 advantage into the first intermission.Regis scord two goals in the first five minutes of the second period to take a 3-0 lead. Ian Rawley fired a shot from near the blue line, and Tito Yslas, positioned in a crowd in front of the net, redirected the puck with his skate for the score with 11:57 to play. Garrett Poorman added a goal on assists from Luke Apke and John Booren at 9:57, prompting an Aspen timeout. The Raiders connected on three of their first seven shots, and Nowicki turned away 15 of the first 16 shots he faced.”I looked at the seniors and told them I needed some leaders to step forward and make something happen,” Butler said. “It was their night.”



They responded. Four of the Skiers’ five unanswered goals came from seniors playing in their final regular-season home game. First, it was Cooper who backhanded a rebound over Nowicki’s glove. Still, the challenge was daunting as the Skiers headed into the locker room. “We were sitting there, and it was kind of quiet,” Cooper said. “A few of the seniors stood up and said they didn’t want to go out like this in their final game. None of lost our composure.”Or confidence. The Skiers dominated from start to finish in the third period to complete the improbable comeback. Aspen travels to Columbine to close out the regular season Saturday.”Other teams really come at us hard at the beginning of games, and we get back on our heels,” Butler said. “We keep getting stronger as the game goes on.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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