Steamboat, Vail tie in opener

Bantam A teams are familiar foes

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— The Bantam A teams from Vail and Steamboat are familiar foes, so it came as little surprise that the two played to a 1-1 tie in the opening game for each in the Ski Town USA Hockey Festival.

That doesn't mean either team was satisfied with the result.

"It's a little disappointing because it's the fourth tie of the year for us," Steamboat coach Dan Bonner said.

Vail coach Barry Biegler said his team would have loved to pick up a victory, particularly because it has lost several games in the final 20 seconds of regulation this year, including one to Steamboat.

In Thursday evening's game, however, neither team was able to capitalize on breakaway goals or player advantages, as the defenses and goalies for either team stepped up their play.

Steamboat goalie Jeff Dawes stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced, while Vail goalie Foster Fox turned away 21 of 22 shots.

For the entire first and third periods, each team tried diligently to gain an edge to no avail. Diving defenders and goalies laid out their bodies, sticks and gloves to prevent a score.

"The teams were evenly matched," Bonner said.

The Steamboat coach added that Vail certainly skated harder and hit harder than in the previous game between the two teams, turning the tables a bit considering checking is more of Steamboat's strength.

Judging by the size differences between the teams Thursday night, it is easy to see why Steamboat relies on its size and strength to beat teams. Vail, on the other hand, utilizes its speed to get behind defenses.

"You better be fast when you're less than 90 pounds," Biegler said.

And six of his kids fall into that category, but that doesn't mean they aren't strong.

It was Steamboat, however, that got on the scoreboard first with 4:19 left in the second period off Tanner Stillwell's goal.

"The two defenders were even so I knew one wasn't a threat," Stillwell said. "I slid the puck between the other's legs and scored."

Tim Ascher was credited with the assist.

After the game went scoreless for the first 25 minutes and 41 seconds, it took less than one minute for Vail to respond to Steamboat's score.

Jonathan Stevens fired a shot high on Dawes' glove side into the net. The assist came from his twin sister, McKenzie Stevens.

"They are great to have," Biegler said.

Late attempts by either team to break the tie proved fruitless, giving each one point heading into the remainder of round-robin play.

The other two teams in the Bantam's field include Denver University and NYCH based out of Fort Collins.

Steamboat has yet to face either team this year.

In other action Thursday at Howelsen Ice Arena, the Steamboat Squirts team opened with a forfeit over Aspen, and the Steamboat Peewee squad defeated Summit, 4-1. The Steamboat Midget team tied DU, 3-3.

Play resumes at 6 a.m. today with the Squirts and continues until midnight. Admission is free until 5 p.m. and the first Steamboat team to take the ice is the Squirts at 3:30 p.m.

The opening ceremonies for the tournament are at 6:30 tonight at Howelsen.

The Ski Town USA Hockey Festival is the primary fund-raiser for the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association. The tournament continues through Sunday.

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