More Steamboat youth hockey teams win state titles
The Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association has had four teams bring home state titles with the 14-under and 12-under teams earning championships last weekend.
The U12 team was an underdog going into the playoffs. Steamboat was ranked No. 7 out of eight teams in the tournament, but Steamboat was armed with a great plan.
“We stressed to them we’re not going to accomplish anything as individuals,” said coach Scott Sulentich. “If we play as a team, we’re tough — we can compete with anybody as a team. We did and went out and proved it. They played great. I’m super proud of them.”
As the seventh seed, the team had a tough road in the state playoffs.
In the round-robin games, Steamboat won over the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4-ranked teams.
That sent Steamboat to the semifinals, which Steamboat won 8-4. Then in the final, Steamboat won 5-2 over Lafayette.
The team started the season with many “raw” and inexperienced players, according to Sulentich. The players weren’t used to the game or each other.
“They really grew throughout the year and learned to play together as a team in a team sport to be successful to accomplish their goal, which was winning a state championship,” Sulentich said. “At the end of the season, they learned to believe in themselves.”
The U14 team was the opposite. Steamboat started the season strong with a tournament win, which gave the team confidence they could be a contender from the beginning.
Despite some ups and downs, Steamboat won the league title and advanced to the state tournament.
Head coach Jake Werner said the first round-robin game at state against rival Glenwood Springs was one of the best his team played all year. Steamboat won 4-0.
“They had beaten us in the final of a tournament in Littleton at the end of the regular season, so we wanted some payback for that,” Werner said.
Next Steamboat tied against Summit and Foothills to win the round-robin and advance to the finals. Steamboat won 5-0 over Summit to secure the state title.
“We played our best game of the year,” Werner said. “It was a full team effort … We came out and played really good, smart, disciplined hockey from the beginning. It was a great time for us to play our best game of the season.”
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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