Skiers make history in a snowstorm
The Aspen Times
The Aspen High School boys lacrosse team won the first conference championship in school history Wednesday afternoon, beating resort-rival Battle Mountain, of Vail, in a May Day spring whiteout at the AHS field.
When the final horn sounded and the whiteout had faded to flurries, the overjoyed Skiers rushed goalie Arthur Kelso to celebrate Wednesday’s tense 11-9 victory over the Huskies — a win that completed an undefeated Mountain League season, another first for the Aspen lacrosse program.
“This is incredible. We’ve been working all season for this,” said Aspen senior and co-captain Colter Robinson, who scored the Skiers first goal. “I’ve never experienced this before in my high school career.”
He said the Skiers knew they had to play with intensity all four quarters to beat Battle Mountain, a team that could win the conference title with a win at Aspen.
“We knew what we had to do. We knew how important this game was,” Robinson said of a contest that was close from start to finish.
After Robinson’s ice-breaker goal, John Heaphey scored off an assist from Ryan Fitzgerald to give Aspen a 2-0 lead.
But the Huskies, at home in the snow, scored three consecutive goals to take a 3-2 lead into the second quarter.
Aspen’s Tyler Tick tied the scored at 3-3 with the first of his three goals on the day.
Casey Hornburg, one of five Aspen seniors honored at the final regular-season home game, put the Skiers ahead again when he scored midway through the second quarter.
“The conditions were affecting us a little bit (early in the game),” Hornburg said of the distracting snowfall and slick field turf. He said the Skiers eventually got used to the conditions. The result was an 8-6 halftime lead.
Ryan Fitzgerald scored three times late in the second period to boost the Aspen attack.
The Skiers added two goals in the third period by Heaphey and Tick.
Heaphey scored his third goal of the game in the fourth period when the Aspen defense held to clinch the conference championship, with a perfect 8-0 Mountain League record. The Skiers are 11-1 overall and ranked No. 4 in Class 4A by The Denver Post.
“It’s never fun to play in the snow. It definitely makes it tougher,” said Robinson, the son of Suzanne and Ron Robinson.
“But we knew Battle Mountain was playing in the exact same conditions.”
He and Hornburg both praised the play of Kelso in Aspen’s goal. He faced more than 30 shots from the Huskies, who converted goal from six different players.
“He (Kelso) played great,” said Hornburg, the son Kathy and Shaun Hornburg. “Our defensive core, working as a unit, played great.”
“Arthur was incredible,” Robinson said. “He really stepped up.”
Battle Mountain, 12-3 and 6-2 in conference, recorded three goal from Cooper Perkins.
Clayton Davis scored twice.
Single goals for Battle Mountain were scored by Rio Garton, Mike Lange and Crane McGuckin.
“We weren’t quite adjusted to the weather conditions early,” Aspen head coach Mike Goerne said. “We missed some passes. We weren’t controlling the ball like we normally do.”
He said Battle Mountain did a good job early of controlling ground balls.
“But we kept our heads up,” Goerne said.
Heavy snowfall marked the first quarter with a steady snow through the second.
The flakes nearly stopped in the third quarter.
But they returned for Aspen’s post-game celebration.
“We started moving the ball, finding our open players. We moved the ball quickly, and we had some good opportunities,” he said, crediting outlet passes from Kelso that triggered the Aspen counterattack.
“We had some good 6-on-6 lacrosse, too,” he said.
A key stretch of the game, Goerne said, came during a 3-minute span when the Skiers played a man down because of penalty.
“That’s always an opportunity for a team to light you up,” Goerne said. “We were fortunate to close that one off.”
He said the Skiers were fortunate to play Wednesday’s game.
“We’ve got to thank the city for coming out to plow the field for us,” Goerne said, adding that a host of volunteers also manned shovels to make the surface playable for Wednesday’s key conference game.
“The playoffs begin now,” Goerne said, adding that the Skiers are excited about a weekend trip to play at No. 2-ranked Air Academy in their final regular-season game.
The Skiers will host a first-round state playoff game next week — for the first time in school history.
“Hosting a playoff game will be an incredible experience,” said senior Robinson. “Hopefully, we can get a lot of fans out here,”
He was joined in a post-game ceremony by fellow Aspen seniors Dan Schwartz, Eric Abrahamovich, Taylor Henschke and Beau Cameron.
Cameron, injured earlier in the season, was on hand to cheer his teammates Wednesday, on crutches with his foot in a cast.
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A confident group early in the season, the Aspen High School boys soccer team lost its footing midway through and could have seen its playoff aspirations slip away. But the Skiers came together in a way they hadn’t in many years.