Steamboat hockey’s semifinal loss marks goodbye for 14 seniors
Steamboat Springs hockey head coach Brian Ripley created an acronym, “REACH”, to set the values and standards he wanted to instill in his players this season: respect, effort, attitude, commitment and honor.
Following the team’s 7-1 loss in the Colorado High School Activities Association 4A ice hockey state semifinal, Ripley reminded his players in the locker room that one loss does not define the season.
Ripley is proud of the development he has seen on and off the ice over the years with his class of 14 seniors. That will always mean more to him than any trophy.
“While I wanted to win a state championship as much as they did, at the end of the day I want them to be better men,” Ripley said. “Those values and the lessons we learned and the adversity we faced are things that challenge those values and I hope they take those life lessons with them.”
No. 2 Steamboat Springs was up against the reigning 4A state champion No. 3. Cheyenne Mountain at Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on Saturday, March 4.
Cheyenne Mountain was the team to knock Steamboat out of the semifinal last season and senior captain Andrew Kempers said the team tried to use that as motivation for Saturday’s game. Instead, the Sailors started off slow and gave up two early goals in the first period to put themselves in an early hole.
“We were stating how we never beat this team before and I think that put us in a downward motion,” Kempers said. “We were all fired up and then as soon as they put one away, put two away, the boys got down a little bit.”
Steamboat showed some life in the second period for what Ripley described as “15 minutes of our game.”
During the second, senior Landon Smith found the net to count as the Sailors only goal of the contest. The team also looked stronger on defense and played with more hustle and energy.
Steamboat dictated the pace of play for the first 16 minutes of the period, but the Red-Tailed Hawks scored two goals in the final minute to take a 5-1 lead.
A plethora of penalties and other game delays kept Steamboat from ever finding momentum in the third, resulting in the 7-1 final score.
Ripley acknowledged the high expectations the team had for itself and believes the nerves put a damper on the intensity early. Ripley tried to emphasize confidence and relentlessness prior to the game, it just took too long to show.
“There’s no doubt that the high expectations were because we knew what we had in that locker room with 14 seniors and seven other really talented underclassmen,” Ripley said. “That’s what is hard about today is, we just didn’t execute. I can’t put my finger on exactly why.”
This was the second year in a row the Sailors reached the semifinal, a testament to the hard work the players and coaches have put in over the years.
Senior captain Jeffrey Hubler says the team dynamic and the dominant play was not always like this. The current senior class was the group to turn things around. It’s something he will always look back on fondly.
“As a freshman, this team won two games and now we’re final four two years in a row,” Hubler said. “That’s pretty amazing and I love all the boys in there. They all play for me and I play for them.”
4A State Hockey Semifinal
Cheyenne Mountain 7, Steamboat Springs 1
CM 2 3 2
SS 0 1 0
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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