Steamboat Springs comes out on wrong side of thrilling home opener against Fort Collins |

Steamboat Springs comes out on wrong side of thrilling home opener against Fort Collins

Steamboat Springs junior Luke Borgerding avoids a diving defenseman during the second period of Thursday's game against Fort Collins. The game was tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation, but Fort Collins' Blake Miller scored with just over a minute remaining to win the game 2-1
John F. Russell

— The ending may not have been what the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team wanted in its first home game of the 2016-17 season, but it couldn’t have been more thrilling for the fans who came out to watch the game.

“We got off to a slow start, but the kids really stepped up and came around, and I think we gave them a heck of a game,” first-year coach Ernie Thiel said.

The Sailors went head to head with one of the hottest high school teams in the state and gave Fort Collins all the Lambkins could handle.

However, it didn’t take the visitors long to get on the score board in Thursday’s game. Fort Collins took an early 1-0 advantage after Brendan Meyer scored just two minutes into the contest on a power play. He was assisted by Greg Bilek and Drew Cronin.

“It’s a big mental game,” Steamboat Springs net-minder Adam Hoffman said. “I was trying to get over giving up that goal the whole time. I was a little frustrated with how the game started. It wasn’t so great to get a penalty in the first minute. They took the same shot later in the game, and I made the save.”

Hoffman didn’t let the puck get by him for the remaining 49 minutes of the game and got a boost in the third period when his teammate Jack Bender tied the game up with a little help from Jonathan Kaminski and Luke Borgerding.

“The coach switched the lines up in the third and sparked something,” Bender said. “Our feet started moving, and we were back in it. We never gave up until the end.”

The Steamboat goalkeeper was perfect until late in overtime. He stopped 41 of the 42 shots the Lambkins took in regulation.

On the other side of the ice, a scrappy Steamboat team never stopped pushing for the win, and it appeared that the late-game changes would pay off.

“The puck popped out of the back, and I went around the side and the goal was wide open,” Bender said of his score.

The game-tying goal seemed to ignite the visiting Fort Collins team, which unleashed a barrage of shots on the Steamboat goal in the closing minutes.

One late shot actually bounced off the side post before Steamboat was able to clear it.

Steamboat also had several chances to take the lead, but the Sailors could not capitalize, and the game came to an end tied at 1-1.

The two teams then went to a five-minute overtime period. Steamboat outshot Fort Collins 3-2 in that period, but it was the visiting team’s Blake Miller’s ability to find the back of the net with just over one minute remaining that secured the victory.

“We just had a normal break out and went down on a three-on-two,” Miller said. ‘We got a good shot on net. I was just there for the rebound and put it in.”

The win improves the first-year Fort Collins program to 9-0 overall and 7-0 in conference play. The loss drops Steamboat to 2-2-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference.

Fort Collins is currently at the top of the Pinnacle Conference, followed by Steamboat Springs in second and Kent Denver in third.

“It was really a fun game to play in. It seems like the harder you work, the more fun you have,” Bender said. “I’m really happy with the way we played. I guess I’m a little disappointed to lose, but we played well.”

The Sailors are off for the holidays. The next home game will be Jan. 6, 2017, against Chatfield at Howelsen Hill. That game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The following day Steamboat is scheduled to host Aspen at 3:30 p.m.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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