Hockey king to be crowned in Steamboat

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Those looking to quench their thirst for hockey action need not go far. Starting tonight, the Steamboat Springs hockey team will host the first Kings of the Mountain hockey tournament at Howelsen Ice Arena.

The tournament features all four mountain prep programs: Steamboat, Aspen, Battle Mountain (Vail) and Summit (Frisco).

"Aspen and Vail have been two of the better teams, you could say top-five and top-10 teams, in the state," Sailors coach Dave Strang said. "So we'll know this weekend what direction we need to go. We've had some real high-energy practices. We have a really good team feeling."

Steamboat is ranked as high as fifth in the preseason Rocky Mountain News poll. The Denver Post and the News have Battle Mountain ranked in the top five. Preseason polls are based largely on teams' reputations and number of returning starters.

Still, the early polls provide some indication of the level of hockey to be played tonight and Saturday afternoon at Howelsen Ice Arena.

"We were going to try and do a tournament last year, but ice wasn't available, so we've been talking about it for a while," Strang said. "It kind of got put together this summer. We thought it would be neat for the four mountain towns to get together."

This season, Steamboat joined the Foothills League, so this weekend likely will be the only chance the Sailors will have to square off against either of their biggest on-ice rivals -- Battle Mountain (Metro League) and Aspen (Mountain League) -- during the regular season.

The Kings of the Mountain hockey tournament begins at 5 p.m. today with a game between Battle Mountain and Summit. Aspen and Steamboat will play the second game about 7:15 p.m.

The consolation game is 1:15 p.m. Saturday. The game to determine the "King of the Mountain" will start about 3 p.m.

Admission each day is $7 for adults and $5 for students without activity passes. The admission fee is good for both games, and a full concession stand with lunch and dinner items will be available both days, as well.

The Sailors will not be home again until a 1:15 p.m. game Dec. 18 against Peak to Peak, a new team from the Boulder Valley area.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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