Skiers stumble in hockey home opener |

Skiers stumble in hockey home opener

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN On a night when the 2007 5A state hockey championship banner was raised to the Lewis Ice Arena rafters, this year’s Aspen squad looked downright mediocre.The Skiers were shut out for the final 44 minutes, 40 seconds in Saturday’s home opener against Peak to Peak. They were outshot by a margin of nearly two to one – the direct result of multiple penalties – and dropped their second game in as many nights, falling to the Pumas, 3-1.

The performance left Aspen coach Al Butler searching for an explanation for his team’s recent woes. “Those were two games where we didn’t quite show up to play like we should have, we need to do some soul searching,” he said. “We had some decent opportunities but just not enough of them.” It looked as though any hangover from the Skiers’ 6-2 loss to Battle Mountain had disappeared early Saturday. Moments after winning the opening face-off, Aspen flooded the Peak to Peak zone. The pressure generated a prime scoring chance, and Gaelen Means capitalized. The senior forward took a pass from Bo Writer on the right side, paused briefly then went low to beat Pumas goalkeeper Greg Borchers. Then the Skiers (3-3) went cold. While Aspen’s offense was stagnant – it had just four shots on goal in the first 15 minutes – Peak to Peak had multiple open looks at the net. But Skiers goalkeeper Zach Ware turned away nine shots in the first period to help his team maintain its lead. The sophomore couldn’t withstand sustained pressure in the second, however. When an Aspen defender botched a clear attempt in front of his own goal with 2:51 remaining, Peak to Peak forward Derrick Hanson alertly gathered the loose puck, let a defender slide by, then beat Ware.

Little more than two minutes later, Peak to Peak cleared the puck up the right side, resulting in a 3-on-2. When no Aspen defender closed on him, Pumas forward Thomas Kubancik fired a shot that ricocheted off Ware’s pads and into the net. The Skiers, who focused the bulk of their energies on killing penalties, couldn’t keep pace.”They were lazy penalties. I think we had to kill six or seven of them and that doesn’t help,” Butler said. “It takes away all of your momentum.”Peak to Peak put Aspen away two minutes into the third. Andrew Duval pushed the puck up the left side, then fired a perfect cross to Kubancik, who hit the open net to give the Pumas a two-goal cushion.

The Skiers generated just four shot attempts in the final frame and were outshot, 28-15. They have two weeks off before taking the ice against Dakota Ridge on Jan. 4.Butler said the respite can do nothing but help. “No question, this is a great time for a break,” he added. “We need to get the guys back on the same page and hopefully moving in the right direction.”

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