Steamboat hockey wins conference despite Saturday’s loss
Steamboat Springs — This wasn’t how they envisioned closing out the regular season.
Still, the Steamboat Springs High School boys hockey team players could find something to take pride in Saturday night, even after a tough 3-1 loss to perennial powerhouse Cheyenne Mountain.
The Sailors finished in a three-way tie for the Peak Conference championship, but they emerged on top of that huddle thanks to tiebreakers.
“That shows how far our program has come,” Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. “There are so many tough teams in this conference. “It’s a big deal for us, a proud moment for our program.”
That news came at the end of an otherwise thoroughly frustrating afternoon.
Much of Saturday’s match at Howelsen Ice Arena was perfectly even. The two teams skated all the way through the first period and most of the second without a goal. Each team seemed to find opportunities, but Steamboat goalie Erik Owen and Cheyenne Mountain goalie Zach Neal came up with big save after big save.
Finally, the Sailors seemed to find an edge as junior Jake Bearss tapped the puck in with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the second period.
Only that, too, soon was equalized, Cheyenne Mountain’s Kevin Davis scoring less than 30 seconds later.
“After we scored, for them to come right back shows the kind of team they are,” Ruff said.
The Indians put in another goal at the 8:42 mark of the third period.
“We just kept pressuring them,” Indians coach Mike Provenzano said. “This was a big game for us. We’ve really been peaking at the end of the year.”
Steamboat wasn’t finished, but never found a way past Neal and the tough Cheyenne Mountain defense. The Sailors had a four-on-three power play advantage for nearly 80 seconds later in the third period, but their inability to score summed up the entire game.
Steamboat players simply surrounded the Indian goal and controlled the puck for nearly the entire stretch. They blasted shot after shot at the net. One puck even deflected off Neal’s arm and came to rest on the back of one of his leg pads. Not a single one actually got through, however.
“The opportunities were there,” Steamboat senior Vladan Chase said. “We kept thinking, ‘One of these bounces will go our way.’ That’s really when the frustrations set it. It was such a good game, and we worked so hard. It just didn’t work out for us.”
Steamboat will find out today what Saturday’s loss cost it in terms of playoff seeding. The brackets for the postseason tournament are scheduled to be released this afternoon.
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