Midget AA’s skate into final with Aspen
Aspen is known for its skiing and its celebrities.
And, as the 2003 Vail Sportsmanship Hockey Tournament progresses, the town may well be known for its wake-up calls.
The Aspen Midget AA’s polished off Vail in the tournament opener Friday, 3-1, and that seems to have lit a fire under the locals.
Since then, the Mountaineers have gone 3-0 in pool play and, in the process, earned a rematch with the Skiers in today’s 3:45 p.m. championship game at Dobson Arena.
Vail clinched a spot in the title game by beating Littleton Saturday evening, 4-2, behind a hat trick from Keith Denton and a nifty game-winner from Austin Chow.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins – the Mountaineers weren’t on the same page all the time – but, they got the goals when they needed them.
“I think, when things aren’t going your way, you tend to force it,” Kersey said. “The analogy I used with the boys is that if you try to kill the (golf) ball off the tee, it’s going into the woods. But, if you take a little off the swing, and relax, you’re going to hit it down the fairway. I think that’s what going on right now.”
When the Mountaineers skated and passed well, they looked, as Kersey put it, “like world beaters.” That was the case five minutes into the game when Derek Byron threaded a nice pass to Denton in the left corner. Denton followed with a nifty wraparound goal for a 1-0 lead.
Littleton then took over the game, taking the lead on goals by Dan Gee and Dan Golden.
After looking lifeless for a while, the Mountaineers woke up in the second half of the second period and played their type of hockey. It paid off with 2:54 left in the period, when Alex Biegler cleanly won a faceoff and got it to Denton, who slammed it home to tie the game at two.
Before the game, Austin Chow delivered a rose to his mom Beth for her birthday and, just a minute after Denton scored, he delivered the game-winner. Chow played give-and-go with Howdy Tuthill and Vail led, 3-2.
Tuthill to Denton in the closing seconds gave Denton the hat trick.
“It was great. We really needed it,” Denton said. “The whole team stuck together the whole time and everyone just kept going.”
“Keith is one of the smartest players that I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” Kersey said. “He’s the leader by example and he goes out there and he busts it every game, and he came up with some big goals when we needed them tonight.”
The Mountaineers started their road back to the title game with a 7-1 thrashing of Steamboat late Friday. Vail welcomed back former teammate, goalie Cooper Lee, rather rudely with six first-period goals.
Vail skated and passed, unlike in its loss to Aspen, and the scoresheet reflected it. Chow logged a playmaker and Denton added two assists to his ledger.
Myers started the onslaught two minutes in. Just 16 seconds later, Denton lifted the Mountaineers to a 2-0 lead. Max Miller ripped the twine and before the Vail crowd had settled into their seats, the home team was up, 3-0.
P.J. Bevan rang up his first goal of the tournament, followed by Myers’ second of the game. Byron rounded out the first period, by lighting the lamp. Denton scored Vail’s final goal in the second period.
Steamboat’s lone goal came from Chris Timmerman. Although the score was somewhat lopsided, Lee did an admirable job in net with 40 saves.
Vail continued its run Saturday morning, blanking Foothills, 6-0. Miller had two goals, while Tuthill, Byron, Chow and Biegler all lit the lamp. Assists went to Nate Simon, Biegler, Miller, Greg Garman, Cam Carlson, Rey Bernardo and Denton.
Karl Eklund got the shutout between the pipes for Vail.
The three wins puts Vail in today’s championship, and the Mountaineers will be looking for some payback against Aspen.
“Anytime you get beat in your home rink, you want to come back and get some redemption,” Kersey said. “We don’t use that as our fuel, as much as our own expectations. We’re just going to go out there and do the things we do well.”
Vail Midget A’s lose heartbreaker
Ouch. That one hurt.
The Vail Midget A’s were on the verge of a tremendous upset against Aspen, leading, 3-1, with just 6:35 to go Saturday night at the 2003 Vail Sportsmanship Tournament.
But, Aspen scored three times, including twice with less than a minute to go, to eke out a 4-3 win.
“They played extremely well,” Kersey said. “It was an evenly matched game, but, I thought, we definitely played well and controlled for a good portion of the game. We’re a young team and we have to learn how to stop the bleeding when when it gets tight late. But, it was a very good learning experience for our boys.”
Vail, which includes players from Summit County, has turned into the surprise of the Midget A tournament, entering the Aspen game with a 2-0 mark. And, the Mountaineers likely surprised Aspen, which had cruised through pool play with 6-1 wins over both Hyland Minor and Southern Colorado, in the early going Saturday night.
Vail got on the board early in the second on a goal from Summit’s Pat Spainhower. Aspen answered with a power-play goal from Wylie Melberg with 4:28 to go in the middle stanza.
The Mountaineers needed less than a minute to take back the lead. Gregory Flynn fed Summit’s Billy Barto. When Chris Chase lit the lamp on a helper from Matt Heelan, the Mountaineers seemed on their way to an upset.
But Aspen’s Dane Butler tied it with 6:35 left, setting up a dramatic final minute.
With 53 seconds left, Aspen’s Collin Smith got the puck in the left corner and found Melberg. Melberg roofed his shot to tie it. And, a mere 15 seconds later, the Skiers’ Paul Jenkins broke in all alone and ripped the twine for the game-winner.
Vail is still alive in the tournament, but will need some help to make today’s 2 p.m. title game. Vail needs to beat Boulder today at 9:20 a.m., while Aspen needed to lose to Hyland Major late Saturday night
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Kersey said. “They’ve played real well this weekend and they can compete with anybody in this tournament. They’ve dealt with adversity before at the Arapahoe tournament and rallied for a win after a heartbreaking loss.”
In Midget A action late Friday night, Vail dumped Hyland Minor, 4-2. Adam Weiss from Spainhower gave the Mountaineers a 1-0 lead in the first. Tied 1-1 in the second, Spainhower scored unassisted. Coulter Somes fed Barto for a 3-1 lead. Vail finished things off with Weiss’ second goal on a helper from Flynn.
Summit’s Seth Wickham had a great game between the pipes for Vail, stopping 38 for 40 shots.
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-055, ext. 614 or via email@example.com.