Hockey: Summit strikes early, holds off Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – The roster and team dynamic might be different than in years past, but the circumstances are all-too familiar. After yet another inauspicious start, the Aspen hockey team will need to rally after winter break if it is to secure a postseason berth.
The Skiers closed out the first quarter of the season Friday against Summit in what proved to be a disappointing home opener. The Tigers struck with power play goals in the first and second periods, survived an offensive lull that stretched into the third and hung on for a 3-1 victory.
Aspen, which was coming off a win in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, now is 1-4.
“We really started to hit our stride over in Steamboat. We just seem to have a few mental lapses throughout the course of a game still,” Skiers head coach Al Butler said. “We’re still just a little out of sorts. They stop playing the game they should be playing. They play every position instead of just their own.”
Aspen appeared lethargic in the early going Friday, mustering just two shots on goal in the opening period. Summit, meanwhile, pelted Skiers goaltender Patrick Severy with 12 shots in the first 17 minutes.
The Tigers managed to find the net on a power play with little more than 3 minutes to play in the first. Dak Dice tracked down a loose puck behind the net, then passed to a wide-open Evan Streit; the junior one-timed a shot past Severy from close range to break the scoreless tie.
Summit capitalized on another 5-on-4 advantage early in the second period. Drake Blass launched a low liner from just inside the blue line that teammate J.P. Schoeffield redirected with some adept stick handling and knocked into the net.
“There were a couple little breakdowns. We’re still just trying to work on special teams,” Butler said. “Being that we’re such a young team, confidence is a big thing for them. We seem to have too many ups and downs. … They have the capability, but sometimes I don’t think they trust themselves.”
Aspen’s offensive woes continued in a second period in which they produced just one shot in the first seven-plus minutes. Visibly frustrated, many Skiers resorted to blindly firing the puck into the Tigers’ end nearly every time they skated past the blue line; most attempts harmlessly drilled the boards.
The home team finally showed signs of life 2:35 before the second intermission. Summit was whistled for roughing and head-contact penalties, giving Aspen a 5-on-3 opportunity for little more than a minute.
The Skiers needed only seconds to capitalize. During a scrum in front of the net, Colter Birk slipped the puck past Tigers goaltender Andrew Dunlap, cutting the deficit in half.
Taylor Mayer and Levi Fetteroff were credited with assists.
“When you give up a score on a 5-on-3, you can’t be happy about that,” Summit head coach Chris Ruhly said. “We definitely let up and let them get back into it. You can’t take periods or shifts off. … Obviously, you saw what happened [when we did].”
Aspen opened the third period with a flurry of shots, but Dunlap stood tall. Later, the Skiers squandered another 5-on-3 power play.
With less than a minute remaining, Aspen pulled Severy and flooded Summit’s end. Dice made them pay, corralling a loose puck near center ice with about 10 seconds remaining and flicking a wrist shot that skidded into a vacant net, sealing a fourth win in five games for Summit.
“Overall, I’m pleased to go into the break with a win,” said Ruhly, “but we have to play much better if we expect to be playing deep into February.”
The two sides are slated to square off again Jan. 5 at Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge.
“We have the potential to compete with any team,” Butler said. “Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
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