Regis ends Aspen’s hockey reign
LITTLETON, Colo. The third period had been good to Aspen of late. Saturday, it signaled the end of the Skiers’ reign.Second-seeded Regis capitalized on an Aspen miscue to score less than five minutes into the final period during Saturday’s state hockey tournament quarterfinal in Littleton. While seventh-seeded Aspen had its chances both before and after the goal, it could not produce the equalizer and fell, 1-0. Consequently, the defending champions were denied their 10th consecutive victory and, more important, a shot at repeating next weekend in Colorado Springs.”We played well. At times we carried the play, at times they carried the play, and it was great game with high intensity,” Butler said. “[This loss] wasn’t from a lack of effort or a lack of chances. … We played toe-toe with them, and they were the best team we’ve seen. We played probably as well, if not better than we did in the Ralston Valley game.”The Skiers (14-7 overall, 8-3 5A Foothills) outshot the Raiders (18-1-1), 16-13, and generated more than a handful of prime scoring chances, Butler said. But it was a slight gaffe on defense that ultimately turned the tide.An Aspen defender fumbled the puck inside the Skiers’ blue line four and a half minutes into the third period, allowing Regis to retain possession. A Raiders player wisely passed the puck across the ice to a teammate, who beat Aspen goalie Zach Ware with 10:21 remaining.”That always tends to make you nervous – that first one is big,” Butler said. “When the game is back and forth and there are not a lot of opportunities, that’s what it usually comes down to, what team gets a break and capitalizes. “These guys have been around long enough o know we were still in the game. … We had our chances. We easily could’ve tied, or taken the lead before then.”While Aspen held high-powered Regis – which came in averaging eight goals scored in its previous two contests – in check during the first and second periods, it couldn’t strike first. The Raiders routinely controlled rebounds, limiting the number of second-chance opportunities. That was especially the case in a second period in which both teams mustered just four shot attempts each. Aspen had two 5-on-3 advantages, albeit for no more than 20 seconds, in the first 30 minutes, but couldn’t slip the puck past Raiders goalie Daniel Nowicki.The game’s outcome remained in doubt heading into the third period, a prospect that had to give the Skiers reason for optimism. After all, Aspen scored all four of its goals in Friday’s opening round shutout of Steamboat Springs in the final 15 minutes. And, on Feb. 15, the Skiers scored in the final minute of regulation to force overtime in an eventual 2-1 victory over Standley Lake.It was the Raiders who had a flare for the dramatic this time around, however. Aspen had multiple chances to score the equalizer, most notably when Daniel Doremus shook free in front of the net on a 5-on-4 advantage with 9 minutes to play. Nowicki was up to the challenge.The Skiers had one final chance on a face-off in Regis’ zone with 6.5 seconds remaining. But, as the puck glided harmlessly into their zone as time expired, all hope was dashed.Regis will play third-seeded Lewis Palmer, a 6-1 winner over Peak to Peak earlier Saturday, in Friday’s semifinals at World Arena in Colorado Springs.All Butler and his team can do now is reflect. “Obviously we’re all disappointed, and this is tough on the seniors, which makes it kind of difficult,” a subdued Butler said. “The way I look at it, if we had the opportunity to play some other teams in the other brackets, results may have been different.”It would’ve been nice to be down there [in Colorado Springs]. If we were down there, we would’ve had a great shot.”email@example.com
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.