Sailors 'Rule' in Liberty

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As his last name suggests, Steamboat Springs goalie Randy Rule dominated play in the Sailors' 4-0 win against the Liberty hockey team Tuesday in Colorado Springs.

Rule turned away 33 shots on goal, as the defense and offense in front of him played their most complete game of the season.

"He was just awesome," assistant Jeff Ruff said about Rule. "He's a very dedicated athlete. I don't think there's anyone who works harder."

Rule made 13 saves in the third period alone, including eight saves in a stretch when Liberty had a 5-on-3 advantage.

"He's so agile and mobile in the crease," Ruff added.

Last season, Liberty knocked Steamboat out of the playoffs. Avenging that loss was on the Sailors' minds Tuesday night, Ruff said.

Steamboat came out in the first and capitalized on junior Sam Gary's goal 8 minutes, 59 seconds into the period. Senior Nate Coram was given the assist.

"Liberty was a very big team," Ruff said. "We had seen them play, and we knew they would try and use their size, so we backed way off hitting in the first and went with the speed."

The score could have been lopsided by the end of the first period if not for several good plays by Liberty's goalie. Steamboat had 31 shots on goal Tuesday.

Neither team scored in the second before the Sailors added three goals in the third, marking the first time this season that Steamboat (2-4 overall) has scored more than three times.

The Sailors' offense hasn't played poorly in previous games, but Tuesday marked the first time Steamboat finished well.

"We know we are doing stuff right," Ruff said. "In the (2-1 loss) against Pine Creek, which is a game we keep bringing up because we out-shot them, we knew we were doing the right thing. The guys were playing the system, and they were sticking to the game plan, and we're real proud of them for doing that."

Steamboat's second goal of the game came at the 14:10 mark of the second off the stick of senior Chris Baumann. Senior Daniel Coloccia was credited with the assist.

Senior Dillon Dennis scored, unassisted, at the 6:38 mark. The Sailors wrapped up their scoring three minutes later on a goal from former defenseman Clay McKenzie.

Dennis and Baumann were given assists.

McKenzie's move from defense to forward was prompted by his asking for the change before the season. The coaches didn't argue.

"As a senior, we try to honor that request. That would be No. 1," Ruff said about the switch. "No. 1A is Clay is probably, if not the fastest, one of the fastest members of our team. We felt his speed into the corner and his ability to hit and his size would make him a good power forward."

Steamboat's next game is against rival Battle Mountain on Jan. 5.

Ruff said senior defenseman Brad Bonner is planning to return for that game. He's been out with an injury suffered in the last game of the football season. His return will bolster a defensive unit getting stronger each game.

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