Up on their game

Despite loss, Sailors happy with performance

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— If you just glanced at the score of the Steamboat Springs Sailors 5-1 loss to Cheyenne Mountain last Saturday you might think the local hockey team played poorly.

But as both of the Sailors' road games last weekend proved, sometimes the score doesn't accurately reflect a team's performance on the ice.

"My feeling is that I played well," Steamboat goalkeeper Cooper Lee said. "But I also feel like the whole team played well. I think we came off the ice knowing that we can beat that team."

In fact, Sailors coach Dave Strang ventures to say that the Sailors (7-4-0) had a shot at upsetting the state's top team if not for a pair of fluke goals (one in the second period and another in the third) that snuck past Lee.

"I'm proud of the effort our guys put forth against Cheyenne Mountain," Strang said. "Our guys played three solid periods of hockey and were close until the very end."

But while the two fluke goals hurt, the game's true turning point may have come when a Jeff Frank shot glanced off the Cheyenne Mountain pipe midway through the third period. Franks had just netted his first goal of the game a few minutes earlier after getting an assist from teammate Phil Bush.

Strang thinks that another quick goal at that point in the game would have sparked a run that would have been hard for any opposing team to stop.

"That was a huge swing," Lee said. "We were still celebrating the first goal and if that one had gone in it would have been a 3-2 game. But instead, Cheyenne Mountain gets the rebound and catches us in an odd-man situation coming the other way."

The Indians fired more than 50 shots on Lee in the game, but Strang said the Sailors surrendered only a few quality scoring chances in the game thanks to the play of his defense. The coach credited forward Chris Baumann, Clay Mckenzie, Jamie Lokkesmoe and Justin John for limiting the number of solid shots on the Sailors' goalkeeper. When the Indians did have a chance to fire a solid shot on net, Lee was usually there for the stop.

"They may have gotten a few shots past him, but Cooper had a great game between the pipes. He gave us a chance to win this game," Strang said.

While Cheyenne Mountain (9-0) skated away with the win, Strang said his team didn't come away empty handed after the close call with the state's defending champions. Strang feels like the Sailors challenged the Colorado Springs team from start to finish -- something that hasn't happened much this season.

He also feels like the Sailors gained a lot of confidence from the contest and thinks his players will use it Friday when the Indians come to Steamboat Springs for a rematch at Howelsen Ice Arena.

"They are not unbeatable," Strang said of Cheyenne Mountain. "Hopefully we will be the team to beat them."

Strang said his team needs to play at the same level and avoid a repeat of last Friday's game -- a contest in which the Sailors beat Coronado 4-2.

"We played a great first period, a lousy second period and an average third period," Strang said. "We just didn't excel to the level I know we should be playing at."

This week Steamboat will be busy preparing for the rematch with Cheyenne Mountain, plus a game against Wasson. The Indians and Sailors will face off at 5:15 p.m. Friday at Howelsen.

The Sailors will play Wasson at 1:15 p.m. Saturday.

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