Sailors hockey advances to state semifinals with win over Summit
Something had to change for the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team.
Steamboat had lost two straight to end regular-season play and hosted No. 5 Summit, the team that most recently defeated the Sailors, in a quarterfinal playoff game on Friday, Feb. 25.
Through the first period, the No. 4 Sailors didn’t look like they had done anything to improve since their back-to-back losses. However, the team that earned that No. 4 seed reappeared in the second and hung out to earn a 6-3 win and a trip to the Colorado High School Activities Association 4A semifinals.
Andrew Kempers said the Sailors didn’t have to talk about fixing their game play. They knew what they needed to do.
“It just naturally shifts because of what’s at stake and the fact that if we lost, our season would be over,” he said. “Everybody thought of that.”
There was a big moment in the second period that indicated something had indeed changed and the Sailors were there to win.
Steamboat’s Tanner Hamilton kept collecting his own rebounds in front of the net, determined to score for Steamboat, which was tied with Summit partway through the second.
Hamilton kept shooting on the left side of Tigers goaltender Finn Schroder to no avail. He drew defenders closer in his direction with every attempt. As the puck bounced behind the net, Hamilton used it as an excuse to swing around the back and switch sides. He wrapped the puck around and toward Schroder’s right foot. It bounced off his pad and back into traffic. Sailor Connor Chapman shoved the puck through open space and into the net.
The goal put Steamboat up 3-2 with a little over six minutes in the second. It wasn’t the last goal, and maybe it wasn’t even the best, but it signaled a change at Howelsen Ice Arena Friday night.
“I was just standing there, and the puck came out, and I hit it in. Then we were celebrating and me and my teammates’ helmets got stuck together,” Chapman recalled. “I didn’t really do that much to be honest.”
The Sailors kept the Tigers off the board through the second period, entering the third with the 3-2 advantage Chapman gave them.
For almost six minutes, the crowd watched with bated breath, flinching at every shot on either end, knowing the next goal would hold more weight than the others.
When Chapman was sent to the box for tripping, it seemed inevitable that Summit would score.
Kempers said the atmosphere on the ice was super stressful.
With more than a minute of the penalty killed, Kempers challenged the Summit puck holder in the neutral zone. He won the puck and passed to nearby Tanner Hamilton. Hamilton controlled the puck through the zone and passed back to Kempers, who swatted the airborne puck past Schroder.
Moments later, Jeffrey Hubler added another goal to give Steamboat a comfortable 5-2 lead. With three and a half minutes left and Summit scrambling, Weston Boese added a goal to make it 6-2.
Steamboat will play the winner of No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain vs. No. 8 Aspen, which will be determined on Monday, February. 28.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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