Sailors hockey laces up for new season, hungry to return to playoffs
For Steamboat Springs hockey head coach Brian Ripley, success is defined by maximizing the potential of his team and working hard to achieve greatness on both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice.
Ripley prefers a team that plays with pace and maintains pressure on the other team for a full three periods. Coming off consecutive seasons of reaching the final four, Ripley believes the Sailors have silently set a target for this year.
In the 2022-23 season, the Sailors reached the playoff semifinal and fell to Cheyenne Mountain 7-1. The year prior, Steamboat also fell to Cheyenne Mountain in the semis, 6-0.
“Specific goals as a team are taking shape,” Ripley said. “We have set a standard in the program now where we are coming off back-to-back seasons where we made final four appearances. I think that is an unspoken goal and standard we would like to meet.”
Ripley acknowledged the loss of a strong group of 14 graduates from last season but said the team is still incredibly mature with nine seniors and seven juniors among 36 total athletes.
The majority of those 36 players competed in the team’s fall club program, which Ripley described as an extended preseason. The early season experience means an expectation of players being impactful from the first puck drop of the season to the last.
Ripley is especially excited about his senior leadership this season, coming from captain Kodiak Kretzschmar and assistants Max Znamenacek and Landon Ripley.
“I really like this year’s team as far as team cohesiveness, who those guys are off the ice and how they interact,” Ripley said. “Their standards for themselves are high, they are a high-character group, which I really like.”
Steamboat will play three varsity games right off the bat in the week following Thanksgiving, starting with the Nov. 30 home opener against Chaparral, a strong 5A team.
Ripley said his players are excited to get the season started and play in games that truly matter. He wants Steamboat to be remembered as the team everyone struggled to keep up with.
“You are always chomping at the bit to get to this CHSAA winter season where every game counts,” Ripley said. “The varsity season is only a 19-game season so every game matters. We start out by playing two 5A powerhouses so we have a huge test, and then we’ll follow that up with some 4A games and get a little bit more into league play.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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