Skiers skating for state title
Aspen Times Staff Writer
“This is where it all starts. It’s a new season; you lose, you’re out,” said Aspen High hockey coach Dennis Maruk, his Canadian accent growing ever more pronounced. “What we’ve worked hard for all year.”
Tonight at 8 p.m. at the Family Sports Center in south suburban Denver, the No. 4 seed AHS Skiers open the 16-team Colorado High School State Playoffs, an all-or-nothing single-elimination tourney, against No. 13 Summit High.
The winner advances to the final eight, the loser goes home. Finished.
“The kids are excited and I think they’re up to the challenge,” said Maruk.
Aspen, 13-4 on the season, owes its four losses to two opponents: No. 1 Battle Mountain of Vail, twice, and No. 3 Cheyenne Mountain of Colorado Springs, twice.
Summit, by comparison, Aspen beat 6-3 on the road in Breckenridge back on Dec. 10.
“But no matter who you’re playing, you’ve got to be ready,” the coach said.
Last Saturday, when Maruk counted only 10 skaters and two goalies on his bench in Aspen’s regular-season-finale win over Rampart, the younger half of his team was in Colorado Springs ” winning the state championship at the Midget Minor A club level.
And that seems to bode well for the Skiers.
“It gives them a winning feeling, something you can’t coach or practice.”
“They’re real confident, they’ve worked real hard and if we can beat Summit, then we’ll play the winner of [No. 12] Pine Creek and [No. 5] Kent Denver, and Kent Denver’s a team that we beat in overtime early in the season … so we’ll see,” Maruk continued.
Maruk said he’s yet to share any scoring statistics with his players this season. And though he admits his players are probably aware of who the points’ leaders are, Maruk purposefully steers clears of making that a focal point.
“We’ll wait till the end of the year,” the coach said. “I think it breeds more unselfish play. In the end, you’re not gonna remember that stuff. Of course we’ve got some big scorers, but what we’ve accomplished, we’ve accomplished as a team, right from our goaltenders on up.”
“This is a senior send-off, we’ve got five of them” “Sean French, Lincoln Neiley, Robbie Parker, Kevin Kiernan and Sean Kulzer ” “and those kids will never forget these moments. I’ve expressed that to all of them, and for those seniors, we need to play above and beyond our normal expectations to make sure we honor that because they will all be there one day.”
Since winning her first X Games medal in 2019 — slopestyle gold — the now 21-year-old Kiwi has become the most dominant force in the discipline.