Steamboat Springs Sailors goalie Chris Gibson had sweet revenge on Saturday afternoon as he saved 12 shots to help shut out the Rifle Bears 3-0.
It was just two weeks ago that Gibson caught a Rifle shot with just two minutes left in the game but was then rushed by a Bears attacker and pushed back into the goal cage. That controversial play was considered a goal by officials that gave the Sailors a 3-3 tie they couldn't overcome on the road.
But things changed Saturday afternoon when the 5-0-1, 6-2-1 Steamboat team came out strong at Dudley Field against league-foe Rifle. In the first five minutes, forward Mike Rinn scored off a free kick and the Sailors didn't look back for the rest of the game.
The win puts the Sailors in a strong first-place lead in the Western Slope with four league games to go.
"It felt good," Gibson said. "The last time we went down there we had bad refereeing. It was nice to come back and beat them on our field."
The Sailors sealed the win 28 minutes into the second half with a goal by Rinn to put them up 3-0.
The score came after Rodney Beall a right back had a right-field shot on goal forcing the Bears' goalie to dive for the save.
Rinn was waiting by the left post to tap in the rebound that came off the goalie's hands.
The third goal was Beall's second assist of the day. In the first half at the 17:25-mark, Beall passed the ball into center where Jason Sirois picked it up to take it in for a shot on goal to the right post.
"The defense shifted real hard; all I needed to do was tip the ball back and it was a keeper one-on-one," Sirois said. "It was a perfect play."
Rinn got the Sailors on the board when he kicked a straight ball into the Bears' cage after a tripping call on Rifle.
"It helped to get a goal in the first five minutes so we could settle down into our style of play," Rinn said.
Rifle coach Tom Taucher said Steamboat's first two goals were costly to his team.
"We played well most of the first half, 10 out of 11 positions were really solid. There was good passing, just two bad goals," Taucher said. "When you're 0-2 to a good team, it's tough to come from behind to win."
After halftime, Taucher said the Bears let down their play from the strong midfield game of the first half.
"In the second half we didn't react as well to their play as we did in the first," Taucher said. "Their passing game kicked in, we chased the ball pretty much the entire second half."
It was Kyle Nelson who kept things strong in the midfield as he led the Sailors with 55 touches on ball. With a recent move to right back, Beall followed with 51 touches as he worked the field as a defender and attacker for the Sailors.
The Sailors were able to maintain good ball control as they took advantage of their home field, which is wider than other league opponents' fields with narrower, football-shaped fields, assistant coach John Cardillo said.
"(Our field) is what soccer should be played on," he said. "They can go very wide and have controlled passing."
Though the Sailors were able to control the ball, the Bears did pose as a physical threat with two yellow cards and a number of rough fouls.
"They're a real physical team," Sirois said. "Their skill level is not as high, so they make up for it by taking slides and hard tackles. They're a tough team to play against."
Saturday's win keeps Steamboat first in the league. On Tuesday, the Sailors travel to traditional hostile Demon territory in Glenwood Springs.