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Steamboat Springs hockey team eager to play on home ice of Howelsen Hill

— It’s a big week for the members of the Steamboat Springs hockey team, and it has nothing to do with finals, or even Christmas.

For the first time since the season opened Dec. 2, the Sailors will play a game in front of a hometown crowd on the ice at Howelsen Hill. The opening face-off is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

“It’s finals week, so my players have been killing themselves to do well on their tests,” coach Ernie Thiel said. “I think this game will be a good release after finals, and it will be good to get out on the ice.”

The only downside is that the 2-1-1 Sailors will be facing a red-hot Fort Collins team that has gone 8-0 in its first eight game this season. On Tuesday, the Lambkins topped Chatfield to extend their winning streak

Steamboat’s only loss of the season came Dec. 6 when the Sailors fell to Regis Jesuit, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, in 6-0 game. The Sailors rebounded a few days later with a 4-1 win over Kent Denver but have not played a game since.

“I think it has been really good,” Thiel said of Steamboat playing on the road in the opening few weeks of the season. “Our players are really focused when they are on the road, and we have plenty of time on the bus to go over the details of what we are doing well and where we can improve. We’ve had time to prep for games, and in terms of focus, it is one of the best things that could have happened for us.”

Thiel said he has been happy with the way the team has played and how it has responded in stressful situations so far this season.

“I think we have had a challenging run so far this season. We faced the best team in the league and have faced some of our divisional opponents and got to see what they are all about,” Thiel said. “I think our schedule gave our players an opportunity to implement some of the stuff we have been learning and to see a level of competition that our players can aspire to be at.”

He expects Thursday’s contest to be competitive.

“This game is the perfect way to ramp up into the season,” Thiel said. “When we come back from break, we will know what we need to work on.”

The hockey game will be the final high school event before the long holiday break. The next chance to watch the Steamboat Springs hockey team will come Jan. 6, 2017, when the team faces Chatfield at Howelsen Ice Arena.

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


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