Steamboat remains in second after skating to a tie with Kent Denver

John F. Russell
Steamboat Springs Grant McNamara slips the puck through a defenders skates while attempting to score a goal in the second period of Friday's hockey game against Kent Denver.
John F. Russell

With six games remaining in the regular season schedule, members of the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team will have to put Friday’s game against Kent Denver behind them quickly

The game against the Sun Devils may not have been a must-win, but a win could have put the Sailors in the driver’s seat as the squad approaches the final stretch of the 2016-17 season. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the Sailors’ way Friday, and despite scoring three goals in the second period, they had to settle for a 3-3 tie.

“There were some positives,” Coach Ernie Thiel said. “I talked about their resolve, and they came back from being down one to nothing to go up 3-1. However, most of our systems broke down. They didn’t play the game they practiced, and that cost us two goals, and they came back to tie the game.”

Kent Denver’s George Kendel scored minutes into the game to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Steamboat battled back in the second, getting goals from Cameron Columbo, Jack Bender and Andrew Mitchell.

But, just when it seemed as if the Sailors were going to skate away with the game, back-to-back penalties gave Kent Denver new life. Sun Devil Will Verneris took advantage by scoring on a 5-3 situation to make the score 3-2 headed into the final period.

Between periods, the Sailors honored six seniors, including Colin Musselman, Bender, Peter Wharton, Mitchell, Grant Janka and Adam Hoffman.

After the ceremony, the two teams returned to the ice, and with just over nine minutes remaining, Kent Denver got another goal to make the score 3-3.

The Sailors dominated the overtime period and appeared to score the game-winning goal when the puck appeared to bounce over the line with three minutes remaining in the period. The crowd behind the goal went wild, but the referees couldn’t see the goal clearly and waved the score off. Steamboat had several other opportunities, but couldn’t come up with the game-winning goal.

Thiel knew the home team was going to have its hands full against Kent Denver, now 6-2-1, and half a game behind the Sailors in the standings. The Sun Devils came into the game on a three-game winning streak and were looking to pull even with the Sailors, now 7-1-1 and in second place, in the league standings. Both the Sailors and Sun Devils are chasing Fort Collins, 9-0.

Those standings could change this week as Kent Denver hosts the Lambkins on Feb. 3 and the Sailors travel to Fort Collins on Feb. 4

Steamboat will have to regroup quickly and needs a win against last-place Standley Lake when the teams meet at 3 p.m. Saturday, just to keep things close. The Sailors will face Dakota Ridge in a non-league contest Feb. 3 and Fort Collins on Feb. 4. Steamboat will round out the season with games against Chatfield on Feb. 10, Standley Lake on Feb. 11 and Summit on Feb. 17.

Earlier this week Thiel said he felt as though Steamboat had two hurdles to clear if the team wants to win the league. The first was Kent Denver, and the next will be Fort Collins. He said the game against Fort Collins will be pivotal for the Sailors’ success this season.

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