Skiers draw familiar hockey foe |

Skiers draw familiar hockey foe

Nate PetersonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN The difference between three and seven when it comes to the 5A state hockey bracket?None, really. As the defending state champion Aspen Skiers know, the only thing that matters this time of year is winning. And after a midseason slump where they lost five of seven games, the Skiers – who won it all last year as a three seed – enter the postseason as arguably the hottest team in the state.The Skiers closed out the regular season Saturday with their eight straight win, an end-of-season surge that lifted them to the seventh seed in the 16-team state bracket released Sunday night. Aspen opens its state title defense against No. 10 Steamboat Springs, a team it has beaten by a combined score of 8-1 in two meetings this season.Should the Skiers advance, their likely second round opponent would be the second-seeded Regis Raiders. Regis finished the regular season with just one loss and handled an undermanned Aspen squad in mid-January, winning 6-3. The loss in Littleton was Aspen’s worst of the season and came in the middle of a three-game losing streak when Aspen was missing a number of key players because of injuries and suspensions.Skiers coach Al Butler said his team would relish the opportunity to get another crack at Regis, but not before focusing all its effort on Steamboat.”You always have to come prepared,” Butler said. “Sometimes it’s tough to get guys up for a game when they’ve already beaten a team twice during the season, but with the senior leadership on this team, I think they understand they’ve got to come ready to play.”The 10th-seeded Sailors enter the postseason with a losing record of 8-10, but earned a playoff spot, nonetheless, for finishing in the top half of the Pikes Peak conference with a league record of 7-5.Aspen was 5-6 to begin the season before reeling off eight straight wins to finish fourth in the Foothills conference. Regis’ first-round opponent is Standley Lake, the same team Aspen stole a win from Friday night when Daniel Doremus scored an equalizing goal with just a minute left in regulation. Freshman Nicky Ufkes finished the job with a put-back goal just two minutes into the extra period.Aspen’s rival Battle Mountain earned the state’s top seed, while Lewis Palmer – the only team to down Regis this season – earned the third seed. Should Aspen and Regis meet in the second round, Butler said he expects a closer game.”They caught us during our time when we were struggling,” he said. “With where we are now, I think it’s going to be a good game.”

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