Playoff preperation begins tonight for AHS Skiers
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The playoffs are three weeks away and still Aspen High hockey coach Dennis Maruk has already adopted a postseason mentality.
Five regular-season games remain for the 10-3 AHS Skiers, but in Maruk’s mind, the playoff push must begin tonight as Aspen hosts Cheyenne Mountain of Colorado Springs (6-4-1) at 6 p.m. at the Lewis Ice Arena in Aspen.
In an earlier meeting, at Cheyenne Mountain on Jan. 10, Aspen lost 5-2. “Close game,” says Maruk. “It was 2-2, then they got a couple goals in the third, opened it up.
“As such, this is one game that’s important to the players as far as their preseason goals go. In fact, we have to win the rest of our games in order to achieve our initial goals.
“We can beat ’em. It’s just a matter of playing hard for 45 minutes.”
Maruk, a 15-year NHL veteran who lost three NHL playoff series with the Minnesota Northstars in the mid-1980s to the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers, knows something of playoff hockey. And the Skier team, it seems, is following his lead.
After tonight’s game, the Skiers are off until next weekend, with road games at Rampart Jan. 30 and Colorado Academy Jan. 31. Then, Aspen enjoys the Feb. 6-7 weekend off before hosting Steamboat Feb. 13 and Rampart Feb. 14 to conclude the regular season.
Aspen’s playoff seeding will hinge on how the team finishes the regular season.
“We’ve got some breaks in there where we’ll be doing a lot of off-ice conditioning with the kids,” said Maruk. “And I think they like it because they think it’s going to help them ” give ’em just that little bit of extra strength in games that they don’t have right now.
“We want to be a stronger team for the playoffs. That playoff excitement, that emotion, it tends to wear on kids. You need to be strong going into it.”
Let’s make some skiing predictions. I made my X Games snowboarding predictions a day earlier and remain only mildly lukewarm in terms of confidence, but maybe I’ll feel better about the skiers.