Bantams get first loss as tourney gets under way

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— Steamboat's Sam Gary was the first Bantam to strike in the Ski Town USA Hockey Festival.

His puck found the cage late in the first period of the matchup with Fort Collins' Northern Colorado Youth Hockey league. But NCYH came back in the second period and scored again in the third to hand Steamboat its first loss in the three-day tournament.

Steamboat's Bantam team was one of five local teams to take the ice Friday afternoon as the hockey festival got under way.

In a festival that is featuring more Steamboat teams than it has in the past six years, the Bantams are the only division that has a traditional four-team tournament. Teams from Fort Collins, Salt Lake City and St. Louis traveled to Steamboat to compete.

Despite the absence of six of the Braves' top scorers, Steamboat lit up the scoreboard first when a Brave nailed a straight shot into the goalie's pads and Gary knocked in the rebound. Gary's goal in the last two minutes of the first period put the Braves up 1-0.

But NCYH quickly retaliated in the second period when Brent Miles took a straight shot on cage that sneaked between Ben Robbins' pads. Miles' goal tied the game to one apiece in the first 20 seconds of the second period. At the 3:10-mark, NCYH struck again when Jordan Smith knocked in a rebound after a flurry of shots on Robbins.

"The rebounds were the hardest to get and they had a lot of rebounds," Robbins said.

With a little more than 3 minutes left in the third period, NCYH's Danny Morgan wrapped the puck around the cage and lifted it into the corner to secure a 3-1 win.

Robbins held strong in the goal cage for the rest of the game and ended the night letting in just three of NCYH's 31 shots on goal. The Braves recorded 12 shots on goal.

"(The Braves) moved the puck really well and started hitting well and (Robbins) was outstanding as always, but the other team was a lot faster," Steamboat coach Dan Bonner said.

The local hockey festival is the last competition of the season for the Braves, who finished the year first in their league. With six of the Braves' top scorers gone, a handful of the Peewee players were bumped into the Bantam team for Friday's game.

State evaluation camps coupled with other major tournaments in Colorado left few teams available for this weekend's hockey tournament. To fill in games for the traditional Peewee and Midgets tournament, Steamboat's youth hockey program decided to pull local teams from the younger Squirts, the girls' Under 15 team and the adult team.

The Pee Wee team tied the Squirts 3-3 early in day and the Midgets lost to the Stampede adult team 6-4.

Steamboat's Bantam team is the first to take the ice today with a game against Salt Lake's Wasatch team at 9 a.m. At 1:45 p.m., Steamboat's Peewee team plays against the girls' Under 15 team. The Bantams come back on the ice for a 4:45 p.m. game against St. Louis, which is followed by the midget exhibition game at 6:15 p.m. The Bantams' consolation and championship games will be Sunday.

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