Saturday, November 27, 2004
When the high school hockey season opens this week, the Steamboat Springs High School team will be without 10 players who graduated after last year's run to the state playoffs.
But that doesn't mean the team will not have plenty of talent in the 2004-05 season.
"I think we are going to have a better team than we've had in the past," coach Dave Strang said. "We have a good number of returning players, and they seem to have meshed as a group. They are all committed to playing in our system."
Nine seniors with playing experience will return to the ice for the Steamboat team when its season opens with a tournament Friday and Saturday. Steamboat is scheduled to play Aspen in its first game at 8 p.m. Friday.
The four-team tournament will come to a close with the consolation game at 1 p.m. Saturday and the championship game at 3:15 p.m.
Among the players the coach expects to make an impression for the Sailors this season is senior Daniel Coloccia. Coloccia will return to Steamboat Springs High School for his senior year after playing AAA hockey in Denver for the past couple of years.
He will be joined by several key players from last year's team, including Chris Baumann, Chris Ruff and Dillon Dennis.
Other top players returning to the ice this season include Brad Bonner, Sam Gary, Tanner Grimes and Nate Corum. Gary, Grimes and Corum formed a sophomore line that proved effective last season. Strang wouldn't say whether the players will be grouped together in their junior year, but it is a possibility. Strang also expects sophomore Jace Bonner and freshman Jake Stanford to contribute. Clay McKenzie will bring speed and a wicked shot to the Sailors attack.
The coach hasn't made any decisions about lines yet. He said he plans to experiment with different combinations the first weekend to see what works best.
The Steamboat defense will be anchored by senior Randy Rule and freshman Jeff Dawes in goal. The players will replace last year's standout goalkeeper Cooper Lee, who graduated.
With Coloccia and Ruff in front of them, the Sailors should be solid defensively.
Strang hopes the team will be more offensive-minded than in the past and will maintain a steady, disciplined attack.
The Sailors will play 19 games this season, so the coach said there is not a lot of room for poor performances. Steamboat will play in the competitive Foothills league, which includes Air Academy, Colorado Academy, Doherty, Kent Denver and Pine Creek. Strang said it will take a consistent effort if the Sailors hope to earn a spot in the state playoffs, which begin Feb. 25.
Last year, the Sailors lost a 6-3 game to Liberty in the first round of the state playoffs. Strang said it is the team's goal to advance past the first round this season.
"In order to grow as a team, we need to go further into the state playoffs," Strang said. "With the talent we have this year, we should be able to do that."