Steamboat hockey prepared for another tough year |

Steamboat hockey prepared for another tough year

The Steamboat Springs hockey team runs drills after an early December practice at Howelsen Ice Arena.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A good portion of the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team is hitting the ice for the winter Colorado High School Athletic Association season already conditioned from a successful fall season with the Vikings. 

Still, head coach Ernie Thiel doesn’t think that’ll solve everything for his struggling hockey team.

“The most valuable asset of the Vikings program was building the team within a team,” said Thiel. “I think I’m still on the fence on whether they’re going to gel on the ice, yet. But, at least there’s enough familiarity between them that with the systems and things we’re working on right now, hopefully, they can put it together.”

Senior defender James Berntsen said bonding as a team and “gelling” on the ice was key last year.

“We had a good, family relationship, which was good to get us through the rough games we had to play in,” he said. “That’s kind of what we want to establish again this year.”

In the 2018-19 season, the Sailors lacked offense, scoring just 46 goals in 19 games. That’s about 2.5 goals per game. Meanwhile, they allowed 88 goals and spent way too much time shorthanded.

Thiel thinks that’ll change a little this year but acknowledges his team’s defense is undoubtedly stronger than the offense.

“I think the general atmosphere of this team is more of a speed, hockey-playing team, rather than a team that wants to go out and be really physical,” he said. “We had guys that wanted to be overly physical last year, and it cost us in the end.”

Steamboat Springs junior Tanner Ripley duels with Battle Mountain’s Jensen Rawlings for the puck on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Howelsen Ice Arena. (Photo by Leah Vann)
Leah Vann

Steamboat is returning a solid core of players in seniors David Thiel, Tanner Ripley and Griffin Maltby.

Maltby will be a strong presence on the ice and skilled defender, while Thiel and Ripley will center the top two lines. The third-line center is still up in the air.

“We have finesse players, and we have grinders. Tanner is a little of both,” Thiel said. Having David and Tanner split up front helps us a great deal.”

Steamboat Springs Ice Hockey schedule

  • Dec. 6-7: Steamboat Springs at Crested Butte, W 4-3, L 7-2
  • Dec. 11: Steamboat Springs at Summit, L 6-3
  • Dec. 20: Steamboat Springs at Aspen, L 4-2
  • Jan. 10: Denver East at Steamboat Springs, 7:30 p.m., L 8-2
  • Jan. 17: Aspen at Steamboat Springs, T 2-2
  • Jan. 18: Glenwood Springs at Steamboat Springs, L 8-5
  • Jan. 20: Steamboat Springs at Chaparral, L 7-0
  • Jan. 25: Steamboat Springs at Mountain Vista, L 1-2
  • Jan. 29: Fort Collins at Steamboat Springs, L 8-1
  • Jan. 31: Summit at Steamboat Springs, L 10-1
  • Feb. 1: Palmer at Steamboat Springs, W 5-2
  • Feb. 4: Steamboat Springs at Battle Mountain, L 7-2
  • Feb. 12: Steamboat Springs at Glenwood Springs, L 6-2
  • Feb. 14: Dakota Ridge at Steamboat Springs, L 7-5
  • Feb. 15: Cherry Creek at Steamboat Springs, L 9-2
  • Feb. 17: Battle Mountain at Steamboat Springs, L 4-0
  • Feb. 22: Steamboat Springs at Mullen, 8:30 p.m.

The team’s depth is in question to start the season, but Thiel thinks eventually, some sophomore and juniors, such as defender Walker Ripley, will step up and help balance out the lineup.

Sophomore Max Kenney, is adjusting to the varsity level and is ready to contribute on defense after spending the fall on the Vikings. 

“I played a couple games last year with varsity,” he said. “Fall league, we mostly played (junior varsity level) teams. It should be a lot faster paced this season.”

On Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7, the Sailors traveled to Crested Butte where they split a two-game series. The first game saw Steamboat score three in the third to win 4-3. In game two, Crested Butte netted three goals in the opening four minutes en route to a 7-2 victory. In both games, the Sailors spent a significant amount of time shorthanded.

They’ll travel to Summit on Wednesday, Dec. 11, before hosting Fort Collins in the home opener on Friday, Dec. 13.

“I’m excited to see Fort Collins,” said senior defender Tate Dorris. 

Fort Collins is ranked No. 3 in the CHSAA preseason standings, while Dakota Ridge, another opponent Dorris looks forward to seeing, is No. 10.

“We’ve always had a bit of a rivalry with Fort Collins more so than any other team because we’ve seen them in the playoffs twice in the last four years,” Thiel said. “The home games have been pretty good games. It’ll be good to see how we fare against them in our first home game next week.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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