Recreational hockey teams square off for top honor

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It all started last November when 90 players in Steamboat Springs and Craig pulled on their skates for the opening night of the Steamboat Springs Premier Hockey League.

It will all come to an end Thursday, when the two adult recreational hockey teams left standing square off at 6:30 p.m. for the championship game at Howelsen Hill.

"This is a league for regular folks," organizer Peter Van De Carr said. "Every team wants to win this title. The players in this league take their hockey pretty seriously."

The end-of-season tournament for the men's adult recreational league, affectionately known as "The Sunday Night Game," opened last week with three first-round playoff games that cut the tournament field in half.

Teams advancing to the second round included The Blind Pigs, Westside Auto and Backdoor Sports Mad Dogs.

Gone is last year's champion, the Bruins.

The Blind Pigs knocked out the defending champion in a 7-4 first-round contest. Westside Auto also advanced after downing Minglewood, 5-2, and Backdoor Sports defeated KFMU Radio Rockets to earn the final second-round slot.

The three winners will meet this week in a round-robin format that will lead to Thursday's championship contest.

The Blind Pigs improved their chances Monday night by beating Westside Auto in a hard-fought 5-4 contest.

Other games on tap this week for the Blind Pigs included a contest against Backdoor Sports on Tuesday night.

Today, the championship pair will be determined after the final round-robin game between Backdoor Sports and Westside Auto. The two teams with the best record will advance to Thursday's title game.

Steamboat may not be as hockey-crazed as the small Alaskan town of Mystery that was featured in the 1999 Jay Roach hockey film that inspired the league's name, but Van De Carr thinks that same spirit can be found in Steamboat during the playoffs.

For the past 4 1/2 months, top players have come to the Howelsen Ice Arena on Sunday nights to play in the six-team league. This week, after 19 regular-season games, the league will crown a champion.

"To some people, it may seem like just another silly little hockey game," Van De Carr said. "But it's a big deal to these players, and they will do everything possible to win the title."

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