Chemistry brews nicely among Aspen, Glenwood hockey players heading into this season
Glenwood Springs High School boys hockey looks to score major on a minor change. That change came when some Aspen players showed up to play for Demons varsity.
“Honestly, I feel like we have a really good team this year,” Jacob Barlow, a Roaring Fork High School junior, said during a cold Monday practice at the Glenwood Springs Community Center ice rink. “We have a good chance of going far in the playoffs.”
In September, Skiers players were told that Aspen High School hockey isn’t playing varsity for the 2022-23 season. Reasons included a lack of seniors and consternation over experience.
Any Aspen players looking to compete at the varsity level, however, were given a chance to salvage the season: Go out for Glenwood Springs Hockey.
“I honestly really appreciate them for driving all the way here to come play with us,” Barlow said. “They definitely bring a new dynamic to the team.”
Demons varsity hockey ended last season with six wins and 13 losses. They also haven’t had a winning season since 2019-2020. Preseason rankings released by the Colorado High School Activities Association Monday evening have the Demons, now equipped with eight seniors and seven juniors, spotted seventh in Class 4A hockey.
They were going host a two-game series against top-ranked Cheyenne Mountain this weekend. But the series was postponed.
Shaving ice and taking knees before longtime Glenwood Springs head coach Tim Cota on Monday included Aspen High School seniors Ryder Rondeau and Carson Miller.
With their first face-off of the season just days away and, more importantly, against a powerhouse in Cheyenne Mountain, Miller was highly optimistic about former rivals working together.
“I’m just loving the atmosphere in the locker room and the drive down to Glenwood,” he said. “Everyone’s really upbeat. It’s always competitive and it’s just a hard-working group of guys.”
Practice in Glenwood Springs typically starts at 4 p.m. Miller said he left class at Aspen High School at 2:30 p.m. to get there on time.
Being told he could only play junior varsity in his hometown was a hard pill to swallow for Rondeau. But making the decision to go out for Glenwood varsity made the taste more bitter-sweet.
“It was a little unfortunate, and I was definitely sad about it,” Rondeau said of not playing Aspen varsity. “But the team here is going to be good.”
Speed is one of the major strengths for Glenwood Springs hockey at the moment. It’s also one of the first teams Rondeau’s been on that has “a good four lines that we can rotate anywhere,” he said.
Glenwood Springs High School senior and Demons forward Avner Mangeot said he’s already seeing some good preseason skills between the two groups coming together. The experience helps the team, but he’s also thinking of the bigger picture.
“Our Western Slope is trying to compete with Denver and the big schools,” he said. “Us coming together is a really good sign.”
Cota, already having notched his 600th career win as a head coach during Glenwood Grizzlies’ 18U season this fall, said Glenwood has historically pulled kids from all over — New Castle, Rifle, Carbondale, and now even as far as Grand Junction.
Having Aspen kids come play is no different, Cota said.
“The kids tend to gel fairly quickly,” he said. “Sometimes the coaches are probably a little bit more apprehensive than what the kids are.
“But they came and fit into our locker room really well.”
Cota said the Demons last season were developing their depth with a younger core of players. But now, looking at what they have with their forward depth supplemented by Aspen, the aim is to have the senior support make all four lines seem incomprehensible to opposing benches.
“We want to be a team that nobody knows how to defend us,” Cota said.
Cota is hoping early-season bouts will be great tests for Glenwood. It could mean a good, auspicious start to nabbing a conference championship, one of Cota’s major goals this season.
“What we’ve seen through the fall is that we’ve got a hungry group of guys,” he said. “We’re still a young team, but now we’ve got some senior support coming from up valley, which has been a great mix up to this point.”
For Miller, he feels any sort of rivalry between Glenwood and Aspen is a thing of the past, and that the future, now, is something he looks forward to.
“We’re going for a state championship,” he said. “The sky’s the limit.”
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