Hockey: Aspen’s playoff chances take hit
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – After going 1-4-2 during a seven-game stretch on the road, the Aspen hockey team was on the outside of the the Foothills Conference standings looking in.
Friday night, the team hoped that coming home to Lewis Ice Arena would get them closer to the postseason with a win. Kent Denver, eighth in the conference standings, did not want to give up its playoff spot.
The Sun Devils (9-6-3) took to the ice and dominated offensively in the first period, scoring three goals en route to a 5-1 win over the Skiers (5-9-2).
Aspen head coach Al Butler was disappointed that his team did not start out with more energy.
“They didn’t quite come out to play,” Butler said. “They just came out to try and feel the other team out. Obviously that’s what happens. You have to come out all the periods.”
The Skiers were outshot 12-1 as Kent Denver scored its first goal when Brian Schoelzel beat two Aspen defenders to goalkeeper John Piccinati, who blocked Schoelzel’s shot, but Will Fehr finished it off for the first goal of the game. Less than a minute later, Connor Dix traveled blue line to blue line for the Sun Devils, tearing through the Skiers defense for an unassisted goal. The Skiers surrendered another goal late in the first period.
“It wasn’t what they were doing offensively but more of what we weren’t doing defensively,” Butler said. “We weren’t playing our game. Too much space between our forwards and our defense, and giving too much room between the two. Our systems really broke down.”
Aspen looked rejuvenated and refocused when it returned to the ice. In the first two minutes of the second period, the Skiers put two shots on goal. According to Butler, his team’s defensive positioning improved, and the Skiers picked up the tempo on offense.
“The second two periods we came out strong. It was really back and forth,” Butler said. “When you pick the tempo up and work harder, obviously you’re going to gain possessions of the puck and get turnovers.”
With the Skiers shorthanded because of a penalty, Beau Cameron intercepted a pass and broke for the opposing goal. He ripped a shot, which was deflected back to teammate Colter Robinson streaking down the ice. Robinson easily stroked the puck past the goalkeeper for Aspen’s first goal. The celebration was brief as the Skiers were in a 4-1 hole.
The game ended with the Sun Devils outshooting the Skiers, 26-15.
The loss did not eliminate the Skiers’ hopes for a postseason appearance, but Aspen needs to win at least two of its next three games and get some help from the other teams. Aspen sits at No. 10 with eight points, two behind No. 8 Summit.
“Every loss is disappointing,” Butler said. “This was none more than any others. A loss like that tonight really puts our backs up against the wall, and now it’s going to force us to win all three games.”
Aspen hosts No. 3 Resurrection Christian (10-3-0) Saturday. On Tuesday, Summit travels to the Lewis Ice Arena to play for a playoff spot.
Despite the uphill climb, Butler is confident in his team after seeing them execute much better in the later two periods of Friday’s game.
“We need to really come out and play like the last two periods tonight and not like the first period,” Butler said. “We need to play our systems and our game and not wait to see how the other team is playing. We need to dictate the play.”
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.