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Steamboat Springs hockey team ready to heat up the ice this season

Steamboat Springs senior Colin Musselman is excited to get on the ice this season and is proud to play for the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team.
John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs Hockey 2016-17

Dec. 2 — Steamboat @ Battle Mountain, 5 p.m.

Dec. 3 — Steamboat @ Liberty, 8:45 a.m,.

Dec. 6 — Steamboat @ Regis Jesuit, 2:40 p.m.

Dec. 10— Steamboat @ Kent Denver, 6:15 p.m.

Dec. 22— Steamboat vs. Fort Collins, 1:45 p.m.

Jan. 6 — Steamboat vs. Chatfield, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 7 — Steamboat vs. Aspen, 3 p.m.

Jan. 13 — Steamboat vs. Air Academy, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 14 — Steamboat vs. Liberty, 3 p.m.

Jan. 16 — Steamboat @ Summit, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 20 — Steamboat @ Air Academy, 3:45 p.m.

Jan. 21 — Steamboat @ Mullen, 8:30 p.m.

Jan. 27 — Steamboat vs. Kent Denver, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 28 — Steamboat vs. Standley Lake, 3 p.m.

Feb. 3 — Steamboat @ Dakota Ridge, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 4 — Steamboat @ Fort Collins, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 10 — Steamboat @ Chatfield, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 11 — Steamboat @ Standley Lake, 4 p.m.

Feb. 17 — Steamboat vs. Summit, 7:30 p.m.

— When the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team returns to the ice in Vail for the opening game of the 2016-17 season in December, the Sailors will mark the beginning of a new chapter.

“We have a really, really young team,” said Ernie Thiel, who will be spending his first year on the bench as the team’s head coach. “We have a lot of first-year players, so we are really looking forward to building a program over the next few years.”

Steamboat Springs Hockey 2016-17

Dec. 2 — Steamboat @ Battle Mountain, 5 p.m.

Dec. 3 — Steamboat @ Liberty, 8:45 a.m,.

Dec. 6 — Steamboat @ Regis Jesuit, 2:40 p.m.

Dec. 10— Steamboat @ Kent Denver, 6:15 p.m.

Dec. 22— Steamboat vs. Fort Collins, 1:45 p.m.

Jan. 6 — Steamboat vs. Chatfield, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 7 — Steamboat vs. Aspen, 3 p.m.

Jan. 13 — Steamboat vs. Air Academy, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 14 — Steamboat vs. Liberty, 3 p.m.

Jan. 16 — Steamboat @ Summit, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 20 — Steamboat @ Air Academy, 3:45 p.m.

Jan. 21 — Steamboat @ Mullen, 8:30 p.m.

Jan. 27 — Steamboat vs. Kent Denver, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 28 — Steamboat vs. Standley Lake, 3 p.m.

Feb. 3 — Steamboat @ Dakota Ridge, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 4 — Steamboat @ Fort Collins, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 10 — Steamboat @ Chatfield, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 11 — Steamboat @ Standley Lake, 4 p.m.

Feb. 17 — Steamboat vs. Summit, 7:30 p.m.

For Thiel, who has worked as a coach with the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association for more than a decade, that will begin by defining a culture to guide players on, and off, the ice.

“I am not a win-at-all-costs coach,” Thiel said. “I want my players to focus on being good students, on being stand-up kids both on and off the ice and good learners on the ice. Those things are huge because you can build a positive team culture and a strong team that way.”

Thiel had 27 players in tryouts this week. This week, that number was cut down to the 20 or so that will make up this year’s varsity roster.

“I think the key is going to be for everybody on the team to know his role, ” said senior Colin Musselman, who was injured during tryouts last year and missed the 2015-16 season. “We have a lot of talented skaters on this team, and we have a lot of grinders. Each player needs to realize what they can do and what their role is, and we need them to give us their maximum effort.”

Among the returning players are Grant McNamara, Andrew Mitchell, David LaPointe, Luke Borgerding, Jack Bender, Curtis Maltby, Pete Wharton, Cameron Colombo and Musselman. The team will also return two experienced goalies in Peyton Tritz and Adam Hoffman.

But the team will enter the season with some lingering questions.

The Sailors lost seven players from last year’s squad to graduation, two players have left to take a run at elite midget teams and the squad will have a new coach. Musselman said the seniors have already talked about team goals this season, and while they are not focusing on the playoffs, end-of-season games have been a topic of discussion.

“No Steamboat team has ever gotten past the second round of the state playoffs,” Musselman said. “We would love to do that.”

But the senior also understands that the team’s efforts on the ice this year will be about a lot more than just winning games.

“We all love our school and are really proud to play for this team,” Musselman said. “I think what we are really playing for is the chance to ensure a good future for this team and to see that tradition carried on for years to come.”

The new coach and many of the players are encouraged by the success and closeness of this season’s recreational fall league team that included many of the players on this year’s high school team. That squad won the Kingdom Kup tournament in Breckenridge earlier this fall.

“We had a tremendously positive locker room culture in the fall league this year,” Thiel said. “We want to continue that through the year. It was great because the older kids were very supportive of the younger kids. It was a really great balance.”

Thiel is hoping for a similar response from the high school program.

“I bring a teaching skill set,” Thiel said. “I’m going to be able to bring a different style of coaching that will unite the team as a whole.”

The team is scheduled to open the season Dec. 2 against Battle Mountain at the Dobson Ice Arena. The team will be on the road against Liberty, Regis Jesuit and Kent Denver before coming home to face Fort Collins on Dec. 22. The team will also be at home following the holiday break facing Chatfield on Jan.6, Aspen Jan. 7, Air Academy Jan. 13 and Liberty on Jan. 14.

The team is coming off of a 13-7 season where the team was 10-5 in league play. The Sailors were sixth in the 15-team league and beat Lewis Palmer in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Regis Jesuit.

Regis Jesuit beat Monarch 6-1 in the state title game.

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


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