2 weeks in, Wranglers riding high
Place, Team, Record, Overtime Losses, Points
1. Steamboat Wranglers 2-2 1 5
2. Aspen Leafs 2-2 0 4
3. Pikes Peak Miners 2-2 0 4
4. Colorado Thunderbirds 1-3 1 3
5. Colorado Rampage 1-3 0 2
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team got the play it wanted in its season-opening series Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
One week later, in another series, it got the wins it wanted, and it all combines to set the team atop the standings early in the schedule.
The Wranglers opened their season 2-2, losing their first two games against the Pike Peak Miners, 6-1 and 2-1. The squad rebounded Oct. 7 and 8 with a pair of wins against the Colorado Thunderbirds, 5-2 and 4-3.
“We can compete with anybody,” coach Misko Antisin said, summarizing his impression of the team after four games.
“We can play,” he said. “We know we can outsmart and outplay anybody.”
The scoring has been spread widely around the team early this season, with seven different Wranglers chipping in so far. Lyle Wilkens and Donny Nordstrom each have two goals, tying for the team lead, while Steamboat Springs High School senior Jack McNamara has four assists and one goal to lead the team with five points.
Antisin said his team played well in the first series, but, especially the first night, focus was hard to find in a rocking Howelsen Ice Arena as the team celebrated its inaugural game.
“The atmosphere was crazy, and the rink was bouncing,” he said. “The energy was off the charts, and it was so fun to be a part of, but maybe the kids were a little overexcited.”
He said his team missed plenty of scoring opportunities in both of the first two games, negating otherwise solid efforts.
It all looked sharper a week later. The Wranglers ran it up on the Thunderbirds in the first game, a pair of third-period strikes from Wilkens helping finish the game off. Steamboat won the second game in a shootout. Goalie Cole Kohut racked up saves, while Wilkens, McNamara and Rousseau all scored in the shootout to earn the win.
“The guys were listening to the instructions we were giving. We played to ourselves, to our level,” Antisin said. “When we weren’t, when we were playing down to the level of the Thunderbirds, we got a little sloppy.
“We have to understand if we play the way we want to, with a high tempo and solid passing, we’ll be really good.”
Next up for the squad is a trip this weekend to Monument to play the Colorado Rampage, with games both Friday and Saturday.
Steamboat has five points in the standings, setting it atop the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. The Aspen Leafs and Pikes Peak Miners are tied for second with a 2-2 record and four points each. The Thunderbirds are fourth and the Rampage fifth.
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It is going to be a hot week in Steamboat Springs.