Skiers give No. 1 a scare
The ending was almost too cruel.With a few seconds remaining in a 53-minute heavyweight bout between the state’s number one and three rated hockey teams, Aspen forward Nicky Anastas found himself all alone, bearing down on goalie Sam Garcia with each thrust of his skates. And just as he was about to wind up for a game winner – the crowd was on their feet and filling the Lewis Ice Arena air with their cheers – the referee furiously waved both hands. The red light went on. The game was over. A game No. 3 Aspen had lead 4-2 early in period three ended in an overtime tie. For the Skiers, a chance at dethroning unbeaten and consensus No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain had slipped away. “It’s dissapointing,” Skiers senior forward David Goldberg said. “With this sport things can change so quickly.” Just one minute 11 seconds into the third period, junior forward Matt Cooper gave Aspen its first lead of the game at 3-2 when he stepped in front of an Indians, controlled a rebound off the wall and let go a shot from right of the net. Five minutes later, Aspen, which trailed 2-0 early in the first, scored its fourth straight goal on a shot by David Goldberg to take a 4-2 advantage with less than nine minutes to play. No. 1 was about to fall. Students pounded on the glass; Skiers players exchanged high fives on the bench.The excitement proved to be premature.”We were sleepwalking through the game,” Indians coach Mike Provenzano said. “But when we went two goals down, we came to life. We kicked it into another gear. “I’ve been coaching in this league (The Mountain Conference) for 30 years, and this is the best the league has ever been.”The Indians, who had outscored opponents 16-4 in the third period and 49-8 total in its nine wins, responded. Forward Rob Naughton scored on an assist from David Rogers with 7:58 to play. Rogers’ second assist of the period came at 5:25, when he passed the puck in front to a waiting Alex Lofthus, who tied the game. It was Lofthus’ second goal of the game and team-leading 24th point of the season.”They kept putting the pressure on us,” Skiers coach Mark LeRose said. “It wasn’t so much that we collapsed. They’re the best team in the state.”While that fact cannot be disputed after Friday’s contest, The Skiers discovered there there may be a chink – albeit small – in No. 1’s armor.With victory well within their grasp, Aspen could not capitalize. They had a 5-on-3 advantage for 25 seconds as well as multiple man advantages during the second period, but failed to score.”We came out ready to play, but we got a little unlucky,” said Cooper, who scored two goals.Aspen also had two goals taken off the scoreboard, both of which were “marginal calls,” LeRose said. Ryder Fyrwald’s apparent goal on an assist from Anastas was disallowed because of a crease violation. A potential overtime game-winner was also called off with 2:12 remaining in the game.”It could of been a 6-4 game,” Goldberg said. “I was on the ice for both calls and the first was most definitely a goal. Ryder was in the crease for not even a quarter of a second. On the second, the ref blew the whistle just before (the goal was scored).”Aspen proved that its physical style of play and defense could rattle the Indians. The Skiers held Cheyenne Mountain scoreless for 28 minutes following the Indians’ second goal. Aspen also proved it has the necessary offensive firepower to contend with the best in the state; Cheyenne Mountain allowed as many goals Friday as it had in its six previous games.The Skiers are confident the teams’ next match, on Jan. 21, will yield a different result. They can hardly wait for that next shot.”The kids are already talking about it,” LeRose said. “This game tells us we are a legitimate state title threat.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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