Steamboat splits pair in seniors' home finale

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For the 11 Sailors seniors who capped off their home high school hockey careers Saturday, the weekend was one of mixed results.

The group -- minus Jessie Smith who has missed most of the season with an illness -- defeated Coronado, 5-2, on Friday but lost to Cheyenne Mountain, 2-1, on Saturday at Howelsen Ice Arena.

Steamboat started strong against Cheyenne Mountain, netting the game's first goal off the stick of sophomore Sam Gary at 5 minutes, 22 seconds into the first period.

Gary took the puck at center ice, skated in front of the Indians bench before he darted toward center ice and the goal. Gary released the puck before a Cheyenne Mountain defenseman could push him out of the play.

"I got a breakaway, and the shot went between the goalie's legs," Gary said. "It was either me or Nate (Coram) that got it, I'm not sure. He was right there, too."

The Indians responded in the second period, scoring a 4-on-4 goal at 10:29 when the Sailors' defense got mixed up near the net and goalie Cooper Lee got turned around awkwardly. Ben Robinson was credited with the unassisted goal.

"We came out a little flat, but Steamboat has a nice team," Indians coach Mike Provenzano said. "They are a big, physical team, and we are quicker, but we were able to come and be physical, too."

Cheyenne Mountain's game winner came later, at 5:04 in the second period, off the stick of Nate Kolvenhoven. Paul Lindau was given the assist on the 5-on-3 goal.

While Sailors coach Dave Strang did not have the stat sheets in front of him, he was almost certain that Steamboat has been scored on in every 4-on-4 instance this season. That will be addressed this week in practice, he added.

Steamboat did have opportunities to even the game in the third when Cheyenne Mountain made a series of stops in the penalty box, but the Sailors could not capitalize on their power plays, one 5-on-3 opportunity or any breakaway attempts that were open.

Steamboat has had difficulty getting a close win over a quality opponent. To fix that, "I believe it's a small percentage in everyone stepping up a little more," Strang said. "It will take extra effort and extra dedication."

On Saturday, Lee turned in another quality start for Steamboat in goal, turning away 45 of the 47 shots he faced. Meanwhile, Mike Findlay, a third-string goalie last year for the Indians, turned away 16 of 17 shots.

The Sailors still have nearly a month of hockey to play, but their remaining five regular-season games and any postseason contests will be on the road.

"I know the guys have loved to play in front of the home fans," Strang said. "I'm actually glad our home stretch is done."

Now, it is time for the Sailors to focus on hockey, and they have some catching up to do.

Cheyenne Mountain sits atop the Mountain League at 5-1 with Friday's win against Aspen and Saturday's defeat of Steamboat. Aspen is 7-2, while Steamboat is 5-2-1.

The Sailors return to action at 5:45 p.m. Friday against Regis, a team they tied with earlier this season. Steamboat plays Cheyenne Mountain Saturday.

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

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