Team Audi signs off on another Aspen Snow Polo title
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Midway through the title match of a testy World Snow Polo Championship on Sunday afternoon at Aspen’s Wagner Park, Team Beluga’s Gaston Laulhe was called for a foul and angrily slammed his mallet into the Beluga vodka sign stretched between the goal posts, producing a hole about 2 feet in diameter.
After some jawing between players and intervention by the referee, Team Audi’s Kris Kampsen made a statement of his own by drilling the penalty shot right through the hole, giving his team a 4-0 lead.
“It’s a high-testosterone sport,” said Kampsen. “Sometimes it gets to you.”
Kampsen finished with four goals, all on penalty shots, as Team Audi defeated Team Beluga, 5-1, to win its second straight title. Kampsen also blocked two Beluga penalty shots and was named the tournament’s MVP.
Team Audi won the 11th annual event with the same three-man team as last year, including Melissa Ganzi and Juan Bollini.
The game was played in very trying conditions; thin snow cover prevented organizers from bringing on a sno-cat to pack and groom the field. Players spent much of the day at a standstill, trying to dig the ball out of the snow or muffing shots as the half-buried ball refused to budge, even after a hard strike. Several point-blank scoring opportunities were lost as players were unable to get a clean strike.
“Impossible,” said Kampsen of the conditions. “It makes the game more about who’s tougher, who’s more physical.” But that’s the nature of polo in the winter, added one tournament official.
Team Audi started the game with a 1-0 lead because of Beluga’s 13-12 handicap advantage. (Players earn a handicap number over time, and in tournaments the numbers of each player are added together to form a team handicap. The team with the lower handicap number is awarded goals based on the differential.)
Kampsen scored once in the first chukkar (period) and twice in the second to make it 4-0. His first goal of the second chukkar came on a red-flag personal foul where the referee awarded him a second penalty shot after he missed the first.
Beluga, made up of Moscow Polo Club members, got on the board early in the third chukkar on Laulhe’s laser from midfield. Kampsen concluded the scoring midway through the third to make it 5-1. Beluga had chances to get back in the game in the fourth, but missed two long scoring opportunities by inches and failed to convert two more penalty shots. Both teams missed several penalty shots.
Team Bombardier took third place with a 4-2 win over Team Lucchese in earlier action Sunday. Tommy Biddle scored three goals for Bombardier.
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