Tate Maris has fun before hockey games. He jokes around. He listens to music. Anything really, as long as it's loud.
When he steps into the crease, however, the Kent Denver goalie transforms. On Wednesday, Maris made 27 saves, including 13 in the third period, lifting the visiting Sun Devils to a 3-1 win against Steamboat Springs at Howelsen Ice Arena.
"It's not about how well I play," Maris said. "I just come out and do what I can do."
He flew from one side of the crease to another, threw his glove up to grab shots and pushed his stick out to the side to make saves.
The Sailors came out firing in the third period in an attempt to come from behind, but Maris did not allow it.
"The shots in the first and second period weren't as high a percentage as we would have wanted, but Holy Toledo, those were the shots we wanted in the third," Steamboat coach Dave Strang said.
Maris is the defending goalie of the year in Colorado, but he isn't the only goal tender the Sailors have faced who has made them work for every point. When asked whether opposing goalies seem to save their best games for Steamboat, Strang said, "It feels like it."
When basketball players can't miss shots, it's often referred to as being in "the zone." Maris said goalies experience a similar feeling.
"It's not necessarily a 'zone,' but a mindset that nothing is getting by you," he said.
Both teams skated to a 0-0 tie at the end of the first period, killing off penalties but not getting great looks at the goal.
The Sun Devils got on the board with 6 minutes, 11 seconds left in the second period off a goal from Beau Schoolcraft. Nick Mihm and Marshall Hickey were credited with the assists.
Strang said the coaches didn't say much to the team between the second and third periods, but the players adjusted.
Steamboat played well in the third period, tying the game up, 1-1, with 7:49 remaining on senior Jacob Pearson's goal. Pearson threw his arms up in the air, as if to say, "Finally." Jake Stanford and Jim Terry were given the assists.
The mood was short-lived. The Sun Devils were back in the lead for good one minute later on Charlie Sayre's goal. David Key and Tim Sickler were given the assists.
Kent Denver added an insurance goal with 5:23 left after Pearson was sent to the penalty box for a questionable tripping call at center ice. After working the puck around the perimeter, Kent Denver's Tyler Morton skated in untouched from behind the net and went almost straight up with the puck for the power-play goal. Sayre and Peter Bauman got the assists.
"We are working on it," Sun Devils coach David Labbett said. "Our biggest thing is to try and exercise with consistency."
The win moved Kent Denver to 9-4 overall and 6-1 in Foothills League play. Steamboat dropped to 10-4 overall and 4-4 in the league.
"If we put three periods together like that third period, we are a top four team," Strang said.
Steamboat hosts Mitchell in a nonleague game at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Howelsen Ice Arena. It will be senior night; the following seniors will be recognized before the game: Sam Gary, Tanner Grimes, Alec Idoni, Pearson, Michael Rabbitt, Jon Reese and Gunde Schrock.
"Sam and Tanner and Gunde (the captains) have shown great leadership for this team," Strang said. "It is a great group of guys."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com