The visiting Pine Creek Eagles made the most of the power play Friday night. The hometown Sailors didn't.
The result was a disappointing 3-1 loss for the home team.
"I think we got caught not having the urgency we needed early in the game," coach Dave Strang said. "We didn't get out and jump on them. We didn't put them on their heels like we've done to other teams in the past."
Instead it was Pine Creek, 3-2-1, that came out of the locker room with a sense of urgency in the first half, and it was the Sailor players who found themselves on their heels trying to hold off a steady offensive attack.
Pine Creek fired three shots on goal in the first minute of the game and outshot the Sailors, 8-3, in the first period of play. The visiting team's first goal came from defenseman Jarrod Saunders with just more than eight minutes remaining in the first half. Saunders got an assist by forward Colin Martel.
Steamboat climbed back into the game early in the second period. A hooking penalty by Pine Creek's Martel, followed by a tripping penalty by Grant Schauer a minute later, gave the Sailors a brief five-on-three. Pine Creek was able to kill the penalty by Martel but couldn't get back to full strength before Steamboat's Sam Gary scored the equalizer. Jon Reese and Tanner Grimes assisted on the goal.
But the comeback was short-lived, and it was Pine Creek that used the power play to take control of the game.
Martel scored the first of two Pine Creek power-play goals with 48 seconds left in the second period. His teammate Brian Scott added another score early in the third period to put the game out of reach.
On the other side of the ice, Steamboat took advantage of only one power-play opportunity on six penalties and failed to score with a two-man advantage early in the third period.
"I think we stepped our game up in the second half of the third period and played like we can," Steamboat's Jace Bonner said. "We need to work on driving to the net with a purpose ... and making our plays. We can't just keep throwing the puck at the net and hoping to score."
Steamboat is now 10-3 overall and 4-3 in conference play.
"This was a huge one. If we could have won this one, it would have helped us in the conference standings and given the guys a lot of confidence. It was a tough loss, but losing any game is hard," Bonner said.
Steamboat fired 12 shots on goal in the final period and finished the game with 24 shots on goal. Despite outshooting the Sailors in the first period, Pine Creek finished the game with 19 shots on goal.
"We are going to have practice today and regroup and try to put our finger on the right button to get the urgency going in the first period," Strang said. "They came out hard on us tonight, and I don't think our guys were ready for that."
Steamboat will have another chance Wednesday when Kent Denver comes to town. The game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Howelsen Ice Arena.
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