Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team ready to hit the ice Friday |

Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team ready to hit the ice Friday

The Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team skates at Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The job was easier this year than last, said Troy Mick, president of the Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team.

Last year when he and the team's coaching staff set out to build the squad, they were pitching a program that only existed on paper. This year, Mick and Joakim Falt, the new coach for the squad, had a year's worth of results in Steamboat to back them up.

The Wranglers charged all the way to the league championship series in the first year and pushed that series to its full length — three games — before finally losing to Pikes Peak Miners to finish second in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.

"Recruiting was night and day from last year," Mick said.

Still, it wasn't easy.

It took thousands of phone calls and at least as many emails. It took at least six trips to hockey showcases in the region where potential players gathered to show off their skills.

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It all drug on for five months before the team got the players into town before the start of practice this fall.

"The process is brutal," Falt said. "When I see a really good player, it will take me on average 10 hours to get him to come here."

The team will put those players to the test starting at 9:15 p.m. Friday playing at home at Howelsen Ice Arena against the Colorado Rampage.

The team is at home again at 7 p.m. Saturday playing against Pikes Peak, then actually at home for the first four weekends of the season. All those games are on Fridays and Saturdays, except for one three-game series against the Breckenridge Bolts, playing their first season in the league, which will unfold Oct. 13 and Oct 14 but also Sunday, Oct. 15.

A long-time working relationship with Mick helped bring Falt to Steamboat to fill the vacant head coaching position. Mick had taken on that role for the second half of last season but passed it off over the summer.

Falt logged nine years playing hockey in Sweden, then spent another 20 years coaching at various places in Europe and the United States before landing this summer in Steamboat Springs.

Now, he said he's ready, and his team is ready.

"We will be more than OK," he said. "I'm not really nervous about any team coming to face us. They should be worried about us, and that's how we'll play. We're not going to put our strategy into what we're doing. They'll have to change what they're doing to play against us.

"I have really high hopes, but I haven't seen a game yet.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.