The Steamboat Springs hockey team is waiting to see whether Bishop Machebeuf, the team that defeated the Sailors in the opening round of the playoffs, can pull off a surprising run to the state championship.
Seeded sixth out of 16 teams, the Buffaloes pulled out a 4-3 win against the No. 11-seeded Sailors on Friday in Aspen. Machebeuf then defeated host -- and No. 3 seed -- Aspen, 3-1, to advance to hockey's version of the Final Four along with No. 1 seed Battle Mountain, No. 2 seed Air Academy and No. 4 seed Cheyenne Mountain.
Those games are Friday and Saturday at World Arena in Colorado Springs.
Steamboat (8-11) lost to Battle Mountain and Air Academy by one goal each this season, giving some indication as to how close the Sailors were to being one of the state's best teams when they played well.
"In the past couple of seasons, there was always a dominating team," senior defenseman Chris Ruff said. "This year, anyone could have it. I'm sure Machebeuf, if they play well, could go all the way."
It was Machebeuf's determination that has Ruff, a senior captain, thinking the relatively unknown Catholic school in Denver has a shot.
"They are a very disciplined team, and they have a lot of heart," Ruff said. "That was a huge factor in them beating us and then beating Aspen."
In Friday's loss, the difference came down to the second period, during which the Buffaloes outscored the Sailors 3-2. Each team scored one goal in the first and no goals in the third.
"We came out a little slow in the first and responded well in the third," assistant coach Jeff Ruff said. "We couldn't punch it through."
After being outshot through the first two periods, Steamboat fired 11 shots on goal in the third but couldn't get any past Machebeuf's goalie. He turned away 21 of 24 Steamboat shots on goal. Sailors goalie Randy Rule, a senior, made 28 saves.
"Randy played real well," Jeff Ruff said.
Scoring goals for Steamboat were seniors Brad Bonner and Chris Baumann and junior Tanner Grimes. Baumann and sophomore Jace Bonner were credited with assists.
Baumann wrapped up the season with a team-high 29 points scored after leading the team in goals (17) and assists (12). Junior Sam Gary was second on the team in goals scored, and senior Nate Coram was second on the team with total points scored.
Another statistic Steamboat coaches Dave Strang and Ruff keep is plus-minus. A player receives a plus if he is on the ice when Steamboat scores a goal and a minus if he is on the ice when the opposition scores.
Baumann topped the team. Jace Bonner was second.
"Jace had a good season," Jeff Ruff said. "He quietly put together some points offensively and worked real hard on keeping the puck out of the net on defense."
Rule had an .882 save percentage and was one of the best goalies in the league, in Ruff's opinion.
Steamboat's postseason honors from the team and state won't be released until the season ends. This year's senior class included Baumann, Brad Bonner, Daniel Coloccia, Coram, Dillon Dennis, Clay McKenzie, Chris Ruff, Rule and Sam Spillane.