Wranglers off to strong start to season
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Joakim Falt, coach of the Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team, was confident before the season started.
Now 11 games in and entering the heart of the season, there certainly hasn’t been anything on the ice to reevaluate those opinions.
“If we’re not injured and we’re all healthy, there’s no team that can beat us in this league,” Falt said Friday.
The Wranglers are 8-4 and currently atop the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League standings. Steamboat’s coming off a three-win weekend on the road against the Colorado Thunderbirds and now is traveling this weekend to face the only team keeping pace, the Pikes Peak Miners, who defeated Steamboat a year ago in the championship series.
Pikes Peak has a 7-2 record this season. The Colorado Rampage are third in the league at 4-6-1, the Breckenridge Bolts, new to the league this winter, fourth at 3-5, and the Thunderbirds fifth at 3-5-1.
The key to Steamboat’s success in Falt’s eyes is its teamwork on the ice.
There aren’t any Wranglers in the top six of the league in goals scored this season, but there are six in the top 16.
The team is spreading the opportunities around, and that’s worked quite well.
“Teamwork, camaraderie and work ethic are helping us,” Falt said. “We haven’t really won on individual skill. We’ve won with hard work.”
Donny Nordstrom is leading the team in goals with seven. Jarrett Sturtz and Quinny Baker have each scored six and Cory Kohut, Ben Lepper and Andrew DeMorat each have five.
Five more team members have three each and the team leads the league in scoring by a wide margin, 58 goals to Pike Peak’s 48.
Defensively the team hasn’t been quite as sharp, letting in 31 goals this year, but it’s still been solid, ranking second in the league.
“We’ve been outshooting every team 2-1 and we’ve still had some losses,” Falt said.
One flaw in the plan this weekend: Falt said his entire front line was missing the trip because of injury or illness.
The squad played Friday night against Pikes Peak, then will play there again Saturday and Sunday before returning home for a big weekend of games in Steamboat.
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