Tough road continues for Aspen hockey
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – The Aspen hockey team gets its shot at upsetting one of the state’s top teams Friday, when it travels to Aurora to face off with unbeaten Regis Jesuit.
It is unfortunate the high-profile matchup – the third of a season-long, seven-game road stretch for the Skiers (5-5) – happens on a Friday.
In what has become a perplexing trend in recent months, Aspen has struggled mightily in Friday games. It is 1-4 in such contests – its lone win came Dec. 9 against Doherty – and 4-1 in all others.
“You could say it’s because of the travel day when we’re on the road, but it happens at home, too,” Skiers head coach Al Butler said. “It’s kind of hard to tell, but it’s something internal with these guys. We always seem to be a lot more prepared on Saturdays.”
Aspen’s Julian Gregory scored once in the opening period, then again early in the second to square last Friday’s game in Steamboat Springs. The Skiers unraveled from there, however, surrendering six unanswered goals in the final 30 minutes en route to a lopsided 8-2 defeat – their second to the Sailors this season.
“After we tied it up, the wheels kind of came off from a defensive standpoint,” Butler said. “They seemed to kind of gain momentum, and we lost it. They kept coming at us, and we started to revert back to some of our old ways as far as defensive zone coverage goes. Our positioning wasn’t where it needed to be, and Steamboat has a couple pretty good lines. … Johnny Murray got hurt in that game, too, which put us down a defenseman. That threw some things off a bit.”
Aspen regrouped in a hurry. One day later, in Littleton, the Skiers scored seven goals on just 24 shots in a 7-3 rout of struggling Dakota Ridge.
Boris Lindenau paced Aspen with four goals, the first coming after just 14 seconds had elapsed in the first period. The Eagles pulled to within 2-1 with a goal 6 minutes, 39 seconds into the second, but Lindenau erupted for three consecutive scores in a four-minute stretch to all but put the game out of reach.
Eric Abrahamovich, Kyle Boucher and Daniel Kelso also found the back of the net for the Skiers, who came in averaging about two goals per contest.
“We definitely made our shots count that night,” Butler said.
He hopes his Skiers can do the same tonight, when scoring chances likely will be scarce; Regis has scored 47 goals but surrendered just 12 in its nine wins.
“We played pretty good against Steamboat for a period and a half. Now we have to build off that, put 21⁄2 to three (periods) together,” Butler said. “I don’t know how Regis is, but they might overlook us a little bit and give us an opportunity to be in that game.
“We’ve beaten good teams like Standley Lake and Ralston Valley. We just need to make sure we’re there for the full game.”
Aspen, which won’t play at home again until Feb. 10, will visit Mullen on Saturday in a game with postseason ramifications. The Skiers currently sit in the middle of the pack in the 14-team 5A Foothills, and will be battling for one of the conference’s eight available playoff spots down the stretch.
“That’s obviously one of those bubble games you have to win. To get into the playoffs, there are certain games you’ve got to win,” Butler said. “Every week, we still need to continue to work hard and move forward. It will all boil down to how we progress as a team in the next two to three weeks.”
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Buttermilk Ski Area already is scheduled to host the world’s best at ESPN’s X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.