Telluride upended Aspen in the first match of the weekend, winning 1-0 Saturday on home ice at the Hanley Rink, and settled for a 2-2 tie on Sunday. The games marked the end of the regular season, and solidified Telluride’s standing as the number two seed going into the State Tournament February 25-27.
It will be Telluride’s fifth straight appearance at the State Hockey Tournament.
The drama of the previous weekend’s carbon monoxide scare didn’t appear to linger on in last weekend’s games at the Hanley Rink (which, unlike the Gunnison rink, has multiple carbon monoxide detectors.) Telluride head coach Davis Fansler said the Saturday game provided a clear example of the team’s muscle, despite the close score, with Telluride outshooting the competition, 23 to nine.
“They played with a lot of energy and aggression; the score was a little unreflective of the tenor of the game itself,” said Fansler of the 1-0 Telluride win on Saturday. Renny Engbring put the home team ahead early in the game, after a pass from Jessie Solomon in the first period.
Despite peppering the Aspen net with shots throughout the next two periods, however, the 1-0 score stood until the final whistle.
Although noticeably outplayed in the first match, Aspen wasn’t ready to yield as easily to Telluride in game two. Aspen needed at least a tie to win a berth into the State Tournament, and their hunger was palpable on the rink on Sunday.
“They definitely had more urgency,” Fansler admitted of his team’s competition on Sunday. Telluride did put the first goal on the scoreboard, with Chancee Forestier taking the shot off a Emily Kenny pass less than four minutes into the first period. Telluride’s complacency was short-lived, however: Aspen responded with two back-to-back goals, jumping to the 2-1 lead. With only minutes left in the first period, the home team’s Naomi Major dug deep to put the score back at even.
Although Telluride stepped up the intensity in the next two periods, the 2-2 score wouldn’t budge. “They had a lot of great scoring opportunities, but couldn’t convert,” Fansler said. “Hat’s off to Aspen for stepping up like they did – they needed at least a tie [to make it into the State Tournament] and they managed to do that.”
Telluride and Aspen will join Gunnison and Steamboat Springs as the four teams competing for the State cup February 25-27, in Littleton. It’s the first time Fansler can remember four mountain towns taking the top four spots at the State Tournament, which almost always boasts at least a few Front Range teams.
He anticipates the upcoming tournament will deliver the closest competition Telluride has seen yet at the State Tournament level. “These are all very evenly matched teams. I think it’s really going to come down to which team comes to the table playing the hardest,” he says.
Although this will be Telluride’s fifth straight State Tournament appearance, Fansler says the team hasn’t lost its yearning for the State Title. The team came up short last year, after winning the Cup twice in previous years.
“We haven’t won in a year, so there is some hunger there; we also have some younger players who’ve never won it, so they’re ready to taste what that’s like,” Fansler says, noting that while the team has proven strong defensively, they’ll have to come up with a more robust offense if they hope to come out ahead of their State competition. That said, Fansler admits he’s seen good strides made in the last three weeks.
“It seems like we’re seeing better overall chemistry on all the lines. It’s encouraging,” he says.
To prepare for State, the team will be scrimmaging against the Telluride Box Canyon Beavers women’s team as well as some local boys’ teams, in hopes of becoming more accustomed to a faster pace of play.
The coming State Tournament games will be the final games for graduating seniors and team captains Emily Kenny, Shannon Lynch, Chancee Forestier and Nina Gerona.
“They’ve been with us since the beginning, and have been great examples for younger players. I wish them the best and hope they can have a wonderful last hurrah” at the coming State Tournament, Fansler says.