The Steamboat Springs hockey team got back in the win column with an entertaining 5-3 victory against Liberty on Saturday at Howelsen Ice Arena.
The score wasn't an indication of how dominant the Sailors were. Steamboat had 35 shots on goal compared with Liberty's 22, skating to a 4-2 lead with three minutes left in the third period before the Lancers flirted with the upset.
With 3:05 remaining in the game, Liberty's Nick Ceciliani snuck a slow shot under Steamboat goalie Randy Rule. Ceciliani took the shot just outside the Lancers' offensive zone, catching Rule by surprise.
But the save of the game came with 35 seconds left when Rule swallowed Alex Kephart's shot from in front of the net, taking the puck in the chest and wrapping it up in his hands to prevent a rebound.
Liberty pulled its goalie late, allowing Steamboat defenseman Daniel Coloccia to score an empty-netter with 8.7 seconds in the game. Chris Baumann and Jake Stanford were given the assists.
Steamboat had defeated Liberty, 4-0, the first time the teams met. Saturday's game played out much like the first matchup between the schools, Sailors coach Dave Strang said. But this is a different team than the one that faced Liberty on Dec. 21.
Friday, the Sailors (6-8 overall, 3-4 in the Foothills League) nearly upset Kent Denver, last year's state championship runners-up, falling 3-2 in overtime, proving they can play with the state's best teams.
"(Friday's) game helped," Strang said. "We were able to cycle the puck and run plays against a good team. Even though we lost, it was a huge building block for our program."
Steamboat came back Saturday and played well offensively against Liberty, getting five goals from five players, despite having less than 14 hours between games.
Senior Brad Bonner started things off for the Sailors on Saturday, collecting his own rebound and shooting it past Lancers goalie Kirk Kirhuff at the 4:50 mark in the first period. Coloccia and Stanford were given assists.
Stanford added another Steamboat goal 18 seconds later, taking advantage of an open net with Kirhuff tangled up in a pile to the side of the crease. Baumann and Clay McKenzie assisted on Stanford's goal.
A potential blowout suddenly became a game again when Liberty scored two quick goals in the opening 90 seconds of the second period to tie the score. Adam Coy and Kephart scored for the Lancers.
Steamboat went back in the lead at the 10:05 mark of the second with a goal from Tanner Grimes. Nate Coram was given the assist.
Liberty defender Adam Ricci knocked the loose puck back toward his own goal, but Grimes and Coram rushed the net before Kirhuff could cover the puck to stop play.
"Nate dove wide, and the puck was sitting right there," Grimes said. "I poked at it and knocked it in."
Baumann scored the game-winner three minutes later off a pass from Chris Ruff. Liberty was on a power play, but Baumann took advantage of a short-handed opportunity for the score. The Sailors had several short-handed shots on goal earlier in the game before Baumann got one past Kirhuff.
The Lancers' put in back-up goalie Ferdinando Salazar early in the third. The Liberty goalie combination made 30 saves. Rule turned away 19 Liberty shots in the win.
Up next for Steamboat is a rematch against Kent Denver at 8 p.m. Friday in Denver.
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