Leafs hockey team hosts Thunderbirds in first home games | AspenTimes.com

Leafs hockey team hosts Thunderbirds in first home games

Road warriors early in the season, the Aspen Leafs U20 Tier 3 junior hockey team will finally get to experience life on its home ice tonight and Saturday.

“I’m so excited. We were on the road for a while the first couple of games of the season, so it’s awesome to come back here,” said second-year Leaf Garret McNichol, who grew up in Aspen. “It was kind of a rough start against Pikes Peak, but I feel like against Steamboat is when we really came together and starting playing as a full unit and we came together as a team.”

Aspen (3-3-1 overall) will host the Colorado Thunderbirds (1-5) at 7 tonight and again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be played at Lewis Arena in Aspen.

The Leafs started their Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League title defense with a pair of wins over the Colorado Rampage in Monument before losing three in a row to Pikes Peak, which is 7-0 entering this weekend.

Aspen responded in a series at Steamboat Springs last weekend, tying the series opener before winning 4-3 Oct. 22. Steamboat, in its first year of existence, is 4-3-1 so far this season.

“The games we lost, we were right there. It’s just unlucky bounces and stuff,” said first-year Leaf Brett Hawkins, who is from Kansas City. “It’s so early on in the season, I think everyone has something to work on. Honestly, I think we just need to work on playing for each other.”

In its second year of existence, the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League had some trouble getting started this season with the last-minute subtraction of the Breckenridge team. But, the five teams competing this season have so far made for exciting hockey, and tonight will be the first time Aspen has had a chance to see any of it firsthand.

“It shows there is good parity in this league. Each game is going to be exciting,” said Shaun Hathaway, league president and executive director of Aspen Youth Hockey. “If you look at the games themselves — shots and possession — we’ve been a pretty dominant team. So I’m excited when we put the puck in the back of the net a little bit more and seeing if we can be that force we were last year.”

This weekend also will be the third and final weekend of the 23rd annual Fall Face Off at Lewis Ice Arena in Aspen. The youth hockey tournament featured 83 teams from five different states. This weekend will feature the 18-under midgets, 16-under midgets AA and 10-under squirt C divisions.


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