Aspen provides big early test for Steamboat hockey in Friday home opener

Austin Colbert
The Steamboat Springs High School hockey team runs through drills on Wednesday at the Howelsen Ice Arena. The Sailors, 1-0, will host Aspen Friday in their home opener.
Austin Colbert

SSHS hockey schedule

Dec. 1, at Battle Mountain, 2-1 win

Friday, vs. Aspen, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, at Resurrection Christian, 4:15 p.m.

Dec. 11, at Lewis Palmer, 5:15 p.m.

Dec. 18, vs. Summit, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 19, vs. Regis Jesuit, 3 p.m.

Jan. 8, vs. Columbine, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 9, vs. Standley Lake, 3 p.m.

Jan. 12, at Aspen, 6:15 p.m.

Jan. 15, vs. Dakota Ridge, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 23, at Kent Denver, 5:45 p.m.

Jan. 29, at Chatfield, 3:30 p.m.

Jan. 30, at Monarch, 2 p.m.

Feb. 1, at Summit, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 5, vs. Battle Mountain, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 12, vs. Mullen, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 13, vs. Cherry Creek, 3 p.m.

Feb. 19, vs. Ralston Valley, 6:30 p.m.

— Earlier this week, the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team converged at the Chief Theater to eat pizza and watch “Miracle,” the 2004 film about the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team. That night, the Sailors selected captains and talked about their own expectations for the season.

Many outside the program will likely consider it a miracle if Steamboat is among the Frozen Four later this winter, much of this opinion stemming from last season’s 3-16 record. But players such as senior wing Brendan Selby would assure any doubters, the team has moved on, and it’s a whole new year.

“We are thinking of using that to our advantage. If nobody expects anything from us, just come out flying,” said captain Harry Wilson, a senior defender who echoed Selby’s thoughts. “We are hoping to make the playoffs for sure and take down as many of the big teams — Cherry Creek, Ralston Valley — as many of those guys as we can.”

Their confidence has a lot to do with experience. The Sailors returned virtually their entire roster from a year ago, one that includes 11 seniors this season.

SSHS came out swinging in its season opener Tuesday, a 2-1 win at Battle Mountain. Last season, the Huskies defeated Steamboat twice by scores of 5-3 and 7-1. But Tuesday, the Sailors used an early onslaught of shots and strong defense late to make an emphatic early-season statement.

“We were pretty good in the offensive zone, keeping it in, and we played good defense at the end,” said senior defender Jordan Gorr, who scored one of the team’s two goals against Battle Mountain. “I thought we were going to do pretty well coming into the game, because we had a lot of returning players from last year. There are only a few new guys, and they fit in pretty well with the team.”

Senior Jack Coon, also primarily a defender with Gorr, scored the Sailors’ other goal Tuesday. Both are versatile players who can make an impact anywhere on the ice. With veterans like Selby, junior Andrew Mitchell and senior Scott Brown, along with newcomer Bryce Sullivan, a senior wing who had lived in Steamboat before high school, the Sailors could have a lot of offensive firepower.

“We’ll have more defensive scoring and more talent on defense than last year,” Selby said. “Maybe a weakness would be our size, but I think our speed and talent picks up for that.”

Returning at goal is senior Jackson Draper, who second-year head coach Chris Campanelli said was stellar in the first game. Steamboat has added depth behind Draper with Peyton Tritz and Chicago-transfer Adam Hoffman serving as tandem backups.

“Last year, our record didn’t show what kind of team we were,” Campanelli said. “We are so far ahead of the curve from where we were last year that we are really looking forward to the challenges, and we feel we are better prepared for them.”

The Sailors will get a stiff early-season test at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Howelsen Ice Arena. Rival Aspen — playing in its season-opener and ranked No. 10 in the preseason poll at — will be the first of three home games for Steamboat before the holiday break. The Skiers were 10-9 last season, including 4-1 and 3-1 wins over Steamboat. The Sailors swept Aspen in two games the season before.

“Super excited. Everyone should come, because it’s going to be awesome,” Selby said of Friday’s game with Aspen. “We want to be one of the top-four ranked teams this year and hopefully make the playoffs. We have pretty high expectations for what we did last year.”

Steamboat will travel to Fort Collins on Saturday for a 4:15 p.m. game against Resurrection Christian, ranked No. 7 in the preseason poll, at the NOCO Ice Center.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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