EDWARDS — After its second-round playoff game against Battle Mountain on Friday in Edwards, Aspen lacrosse gathered underneath the scoreboard for a team photo, a concept that seemed preposterous an hour previous.
That scoreboard said host Battle Mountain held a comfortable 6-0 halftime lead before the Skiers roared back in the second half to force overtime at 7-7 with Aspen’s Tyler Tick giving his team an improbable 8-7 win in extra time.
Though for different reasons, both teams are going to be asking, “Do you believe it,” for some time, although the Skiers have more immediate concerns, like their first trip to the state semifinals on Wednesday either at Wheat Ridge or home for Cheyenne Mountain.
“No, not at all,” said Tick when asked if he believed what had happened. “We were down 6-0, and we knew (Battle Mountain) is a great team, so we just figured we had to buckle down and score six or seven goals in a half, so we rallied up. It was hard to believe at halftime we would win this game.”
Aspen coach Michael Goerne believed. He felt that his players were a little too much in their heads returning to the field where they lost to the Huskies, 7-5, during the regular season.
“We just needed to keep fighting through,” he said. “We know it’s a four-quarter game. We know that goals come in strings, goals come in bunches, and we just had to be patient until we had our bunch of goals.
“We stepped up every quarter of the game. We had more intensity with each quarter. We executed better and it resulted in us going on an 8-1 streak in the second half. (sic).”
Meanwhile, it was awfully quiet in the Battle Mountain locker room. Despite the accomplishments of the season — the first conference title and first playoff win — this one is going to sting for a while.
“Aspen’s goalie stood on his head in the second half,” Huskies coach Jerry Nichols said of the Skiers’ Jordan Cottrell. “He made one incredible save after another. We played a great four quarters. Obviously, today, Aspen was the better team, not by a lot. We took them to overtime. We could play them five more times and have just as close games with different outcomes. But today, I hand it to Aspen, their coaches and especially their goalie.”
All the way back
As the second half started, this seemed like a fait accompli. Ryan Fitzgerald scored twice and Tick found the net to halve the lead.
While a 6-3 lead seemed comfortable enough, there were signs that all was not well for Battle Mountain. Aspen started winning the faceoffs. Battle Mountain was also not linking together many passes and possession started tilting the Skiers’ way.
The Huskies seemed to have righted the ship with a spectacular goal by Jack Harty to start the fourth. His diving effort gave Battle Mountain a seemingly comfortable four-goal lead at 7-3.
With 7:51 left in regulation, Aspen’s Matthew Sovich found the back of the net, and that was when Tick said he really started believing. A minute later, Harry Ferguson fed Fitzgerald for a wide open net. Fitzgerald missed wide, and that seemed like it would be costly.
Yet Aspen kept coming.
“You just have to keep playing every situation,” Goerne said. “You can’t worry about it until the buzzer sounds what the score is. We kept trying to get after every situation and we won more and more as the game went on.”
In the final 2:34 of regulation, it was a red and black flood. Fitzgerald, Henry Godfrey and Sovich scored to even the game.
Aspen won the faceoff in overtime and never looked back. John Heaphey found Tick for the game-winner.
“He just came down from half and saw me on the cut. He hit me on the cut. It was a great pass,” Tick said. “I couldn’t think — shoot and score. It was a great feeling. It’s surreal.”
Huskies dominate first half
Canon Kirchner to Mike Lange was the only score of the first quarter as the Huskies took a 1-0 lead.
Battle Mountain’s Wyatt Dilling scored unassisted with 8:16 left in the half, and then came the sequence that seemed to decide the game in Battle Mountain’s favor. Huskies goalie Zach Trombetta, who was playing with a left-thumb injury, stoned Fitzgerald with a save and the ball went immediately forward. Seconds later, Mike Lange fired a pass to Alex Davis and it was 3-0 in favor of Battle Mountain.
The rest of the half was all Huskies. Mac Kelsall, Jack Nichols and Clayton Davis scored and Battle Mountain looked to be cruising.
And then came the second half.
“Lacrosse is definitely a game of momentum,” Jerry Nichols said. “All it takes is a couple of quick goals on their side and a couple of quick saves and, all of a sudden, it’s a four-goal swing. That’s what happened in the third quarter. We got on our heels a little bit and had a little trouble getting off them. We fought all the way to the end. I’m super-proud of all of our boys. But today we just came up a little short.”
“It was a great season,” senior Harty said. “Making it past the first round was a step further than last year. It’s incredible to be playing with these guys for all these years and how well we did.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.