Steamboat Springs Pick a player, any player, and he might be the next one to drill a puck past your goalie.
Blessed with depth, speed and skill, the Steamboat Springs boys hockey team outskated, outshot and outplayed the visiting Mitchell Marauders en route to a 6-1 victory in its home debut Friday night.
Ten different Sailors either contributed goals or assists -- or both -- in the win, the second of the season for Steamboat.
"We're a real offensive-minded team," junior Casey Earp said.
The plan on offense was to attack from the opening face-off, assistant Jeff Ruff said. Ruff was the main man Friday night in place of coach Dave Strang, who was forced to sit out Friday's contest after Steamboat committed more than 15 penalties in its previous contest against Battle Mountain Dec. 14.
"I'm just the puppet," Ruff graciously said.
And in the absence of their coach, the Sailors certainly put on a show, no doubt to make Strang proud.
Steamboat outshot Mitchell 23-4 in the first period alone but didn't actually get on the scoreboard until the 1:39-mark of the first. (The clock counts backward from 15 minutes in high school hockey.)
Sophomore Nick Pruett recorded the power-play goal for the Sailors. Earp and sophomore Chris Baumann were given the assists, as Steamboat was finally able to crack Mitchell goalie Richard Raile after the senior turned away the first 21 shots.
Ruff said the Sailors realized Raile would be tough. He was a target on the scouting report.
"We had to get traffic in front of him and work our backdoor plays," Ruff said.
With 2.6 seconds left in the first, after Mitchell's Brian Higney tied the game seconds earlier, Baumann took the puck on the face-off and planted it behind Raile's knees as the buzzer sounded.
It proved to be the game-winner.
The Sailors came out firing in the second period as well, netting two quick goals before the 11:00-mark, extending their lead, 4-1.
Senior Trask Donaldson and Earp scored the goals, while junior Matt Legrice and sophomores Clay McKenzie and Brad Bonner were credited with assists.
Then, play for both teams drastically slowed down, as one by one players from both teams earned trips to the penalty box.
"I'm pleased with the way we came out in the first and controlled the tempo," Ruff said. "In the second, (Mitchell) came out clutching and grabbing and trying to slow us down. We took a few penalties we didn't want."
Ruff said, however, what stood out the most was his team's ability to regroup between the second and third periods.
"I'm pretty proud of them coming in and refocusing on the system we want to run," Ruff said.
In the third, the Sailors put 10 shots on goal compared to Mitchell's one, as Steamboat goalies Cooper Lee and Jessie Smith combined their efforts in the net. Smith entered with 3:11 left in the contest.
Steamboat's final two goals came with less than three minutes remaining, as senior John Bowers and juniors Curtis Nelson and Chris Timmerman provided a quick clinic to all the enthusiastic fans in the stands on how to pass the puck.
Bowers centered the puck to Nelson, who passed off to an open Timmerman skating toward the net, and he scored.
With 31.8 seconds left, and the outcome all but sealed, Earp and Pruett teamed up again. This time on a face-off, and for the second time in the game, Steamboat used the face-off to score a quick goal, as Pruett found Earp for the score.
"That was just an old play," Earp said. "We never really practice it. They fell for it two times."
For the game, the Sailors had 45 shots on goal to Mitchell's 15, which surprised no one.
"When we play the game our speed, we get a lot of shots," Ruff said.
Though it is just the third game of the season for Steamboat, the win was important nonetheless. It marked the first-ever home victory for the Sailors' hockey program.
The importance of the game wasn't lost on Earp or Pruett. The two showed up in dress shirts and nicely pressed khakis, as if they'd just finished another day at the office.
"That was amazing," Earp said of the crowd. "The image was just like when the U.S. Women's Olympic team was in town last year. We had a lot of support."
Not only from the fans, but from each other on the bench as well. Both Pruett and Earp admitted it would be hard to formulate a scouting report on Steamboat considering any player on any given night can fire a puck past your goalie.
Steamboat returns to the ice Jan. 4 at Rampart. The team's next home game is Jan. 11 against Machbeuf.