Behind 29 shots on goal and months of playing together, the Aspen hockey team had the edge in Friday night's game and took advantage of it, defeating Steamboat Springs, 4-1.
Aspen (1-0) advances to face Battle Mountain (1-0) in the 3:15 p.m. championship today to determine the winner of the inaugural King of the Mountain hockey tournament.
Steamboat (0-1) faces Summit (0-1) in the consolation game at 1 p.m. Battle Mountain defeated Summit, 8-1, in the early game Friday at Howelsen Ice Arena.
The Sailors have been together for several weeks, and although nine players on Steamboat's roster are returning varsity players, two of them are out with injuries. The other nine players are new to high school hockey, and it's a different world from Bantam.
"There were a lot of nerves out on the ice," Steamboat coach Dave Strang said. "We were real happy with the guys. We had moments of brilliance."
The first five minutes of the game drew cheers from those on the bench and in the Howelsen stands. Aspen's Tyler Doremus scored the game's first goal on a shorthanded shot high and past Steamboat goalie Randy Rule. Teammate Nicky Anastas was given the assist.
The Sailors answered less than a minute later on a Sam Gary power play goal. Clay McKenzie and Chris Baumann were given assists.
"Clay just flung it at me, and I flicked it in," Gary said.
The Skiers scored twice more in the first period to head into the locker room with a 3-1 advantage.
Aspen, a team playing together since early fall, tacked on another goal at the 12:46 mark in the second off a shot from Sam Harder. Ryder Fyrwald and Jordan Friedland were given the assists.
Through most of the first and second periods, the Skiers did a good job controlling the puck and winning the face-offs to keep the puck in their end. In his varsity debut, Rule stopped 25 shots, including several breakaways and closer range shots directly in front of the net.
Steamboat was playing without two veteran defensemen in seniors Brad Bonner and Sam Spillane. Both are out with injuries, forcing rookie defensemen Jace Bonner, Brad's younger brother, Alec Idoni and Bjorn Lickteig into prominent roles early on. Senior Daniel Coloccia also made his high school debut, but he has extensive experience playing club hockey in Denver.
By the third period, however, the defense and forwards settled in, controlled the puck and checked much better. Neither team scored in the third, but Steamboat, which had 10 shots on goal, held Aspen to just three shots on goal compared to 26 in the first two periods.
"We did all right for our first game," Gary said.
Steamboat will continue to adjust to the size and speed of the high school game when it wraps up play in the King of the Mountain tournament at 1 p.m. today. The game will be broadcast on KRMR 100.5 and 107.3.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org