Skiers roll in hockey title rematch |

Skiers roll in hockey title rematch

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Skiers forward Daniel Doremus drives the puck toward the Ralston Valley net Wednesday night at Lewis Ice Arena in a a rematch of last year's 5A state championship game. Aspen won, 3-1. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN Skiers defenseman Simon Dolginow called Ralston Valley’s equalizer six minutes into the third period his fault.The senior more than made up for his misstep.Dolginow beat Mustangs goalie Matt Hardiek with a shot to the top right corner of the net less than one minute later, teammate Tyler Moore stretched the lead to two with a one-timer with three minutes remaining and, in a rematch of last year’s 5A state championship, fourth-ranked Aspen prevailed again, 3-1.The last three games between these two teams – a matchup fast becoming one of the state’s most exciting – have been decided by three goals.”It goes to show you that, if we play three periods hard, we can play with anybody,” Skiers head coach Al Butler said. “We’re going to the playoffs, and we’re just starting to peak.”A power play goal in the second period of last year’s title game proved to be the clincher in a 1-0 victory for the Skiers, who picked up their first-ever state hockey crown. It looked as though Wednesday’s match would follow the exact same script.Sophomore Daniel Doremus pushed the puck up the left side on a 5-on-4 Aspen advantage and, with 52 seconds to play in the second period, a teammate skated in front of him to partially obstruct Hardiek’s view. Doremus lined up a shot that hit the net. Lewis Ice Arena erupted.

Third-ranked Ralston Valley answered in the third. Hardiek cleared up the right side, creating a 2-on-1 Mustangs’ break. Derek Hoover fed the puck past Dolginow to teammate Justin Hoffman on the far post for the easy score.”Their goal was definitely my fault,” Dolginow confessed. “I should’ve gotten back earlier.”

Dolginow had his shot at redemption one minute later – he didn’t miss. He paused shortly after skating past the blue line and cradled the puck as he scanned the ice and looked for Doremus at the back post. When no Mustangs defender closed on him, Dolginow launched a powerful shot to the top right corner that sailed inches under the crossbar.Aspen (11-6 overall, 6-3 5A Foothills) was whistled for having too many men on the ice with 5 minutes, 8 seconds to play, giving Ralston a man-up advantage. The power play produced one good look; Hoffman found a crease and tested Aspen goalie Zach Ware with a strong wrister; Ware deflected the puck out of harm’s way. Twenty-four seconds later, Moore all but sealed the victory. Doremus skated behind the Mustangs net and passed to a cutting Moore for the one-timer, giving the Skiers a commanding 3-1 lead.

“There’s nothing better than insurance,” Dolginow said. “[This game] definitely had the intensity of last year’s game. Any time you go and beat a team that skilled, you’re happy.”The Mustangs (15-2-1, 8-2) entered Wednesday’s game having outscored opponents, 98-21, and were averaging nearly six goals a game. Ware was up to the challenge, however, turning away 20 of 21 Ralston Valley attempts.The sophomore was perhaps at his best early in the first when two untimely Skiers penalties gave the Mustangs a 5-on-3 advantage and, consequently, multiple scoring chances. During one exchange, Ralston Valley crowded the box, firing multiple shots; Ware, who fell on his back, somehow managed to smother the puck and draw a whistle.”They had some early chances, and they probably should’ve scored,” Butler said. “Zach made some key saves when we needed him, and it was a real team effort. It starts with Zach and escalates from there.”The Mustangs generated 17 shot attempts in the first two periods but came up empty. Their feverish attempt to come from behind late in the third was dashed because of an inopportune too many men on the ice penalty with less than two minutes to play.

After 40 minutes of hockey nearly as intense as last year’s title tussle, Moore’s goal gave Aspen reason to exhale. Four minutes later, the Skiers poured onto the ice after to celebrate a sixth consecutive victory.”The guys have gotten to the point that they feel confident in tight games that we can still win,” Butler said. “This feeling’s hard to match,” Dolginow added. “I’d love to see them again, and hopefully in the state championship game.”

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