Strong senior class sets up Steamboat hockey for success
With a strong veteran group of 15 seniors, Steamboat ice hockey is gearing up for what could be an extremely successful season. Last year the Sailors made it to the Frozen Four, and the team will look to replicate that again this season.
Brian Ripley is in his seventh year working with the team but is taking on the responsibilities of head coach for the first time.
He knows it is a long season and said he is looking at the strengths of each player to “put the puzzle together” and get the most out of the Sailors.
Ripley noted some key players graduated, and it will change up the dynamic and plan of attack for this season, but he is confident the boys will adjust.
“I would say our strength is a little bit stronger on the forward end this year,” Ripley said. “So that just changes our approach a little bit, but it’s just a matter of where those strengths and weaknesses are and putting people in the right roles and right combinations to achieve the best we can as a team together.”
Steamboat’s high school hockey program currently has 44 athletes, but with only 20 players allowed on a game-day roster, Ripley is excited to develop some of the younger guys in the junior varsity program.
Ripley knows that only means good things for the future, and he is hopeful his captains and senior leaders will lead by example and show the younger players the ropes.
For Ripley, two athletes stood out in their influence and leadership. Seniors Andrew Kempers and Jeffrey Hubler earned captaincy for this season with the remaining 13 seniors each earning the ‘assistant’ title.
“We decided this year because of the dynamic of our team, we’re going to have two captains,” Ripley said. “Both Andrew and Jeffrey are going to wear the ‘C’ and we’re not going to have an alternate because as I told the team, we have so many seniors in that locker room, I expect all of them to be worthy of wearing the assistant captain letter.”
Ripley says it is not unreasonable to think a state championship is possible, and he wants his team to set its sights high for the season. However, he plans to have a meeting with the team next week to go over goals as a group.
He believes the Sailors play in the toughest division in Class 4A and likes to play strong 5A teams at the start of the season to see what his team is made of.
The Sailors have a preseason scrimmage at home on Thursday, Dec. 1, against 5A opponent Chaparral. The team follows that up with its first regular season matchup against Fort Collins on the road on Friday, Dec. 2.
“Our mountain conference is certainly the strongest in all of 4A, so the first goal is to try and come out on top in the division,” Ripley said. “That gives us a good playoff seed, and then if we can make the Frozen Four and kind of accomplish a similar level to what we did last year, then I’d think anything is possible and certainly a state championship is within reason.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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