The season is young, but the Steamboat Springs hockey team is ready to measure itself against a quality opponent.
Regis comes to town for a 1:30 p.m. game Saturday at Howelsen Ice Arena, presenting the Sailors the opportunity to avenge two one-goal losses from a season ago, losses that assistant Jeff Ruff said could have been victories.
"Our team is ready to start competing," Ruff said. "It's a league game, and it is an opportune time to say we're going to start playing. We go hard for the rest of the season, and I think our guys are looking forward to playing competitive games."
Steamboat enters Saturday's game 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Mountain league with the most recent win coming against Pine Creek in overtime Dec. 22.
Regis is 2-4 overall and 1-1 in league play, but it's a deceptive record, Ruff said.
Three of Regis' losses came to teams that are in contention for this season's state championship in Kent, Denver, Aspen and Battle Mountain.
The Sailors have not been allowed to have organized practices with coach Dave Strang or Ruff because of the holiday break. Steamboat was allowed to return to practice today, but the team had no ice time reserved at Howelsen Ice Arena.
Ruff said the team probably would get together for dry-land work and "chalk talk" on the day before the game.
The players have skated and worked on skills during open skates or holiday clinics not associated with the high school program.
Steamboat's players and coaches believe they have the ability to make the play-offs this season, and Saturday's showing against Regis will begin to give the Sailors an idea of how accurate that assessment is.
Depth is a strength of this year's squad, and Steamboat has played well in the third period of its previous games and late in its two overtime wins, but Ruff said the Sailors are working on starting games stronger.
"We have to come into the game ready to play and beat a team in the first, as opposed to waiting until the third," he said. "That's what we would really like to work on."
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