Sailors hockey hopes for upset

Steamboat opens playoffs against No. 2-seeded Air Academy

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What: Steamboat vs. Air Academy playoff hockey game

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: Sertich Ice Center in Colorado Springs

Radio: ESPN 1230 AM

— The first time Steamboat Springs High School's hockey team played Air Academy, the Sailors beat the Kadets in every facet of the game - except on the scoreboard.

That strong play is the main reason why - despite being a No. 15 seed- Sailors coach Jeff Ruff said his team is confident as it heads into tonight's playoff opener against the second-seeded Kadets.

"We're real confident. We've had some real good practices," Ruff said. "I think our guys are seriously ready to play."

In the two teams' first meeting at Howelsen Ice Arena - a 1-0 Kadets win, the Sailors (10-6-2 overall, 6-6 in conference play) out-shot the Kadets, 30-14, but finished the day 0-for-10 on the power play, including 0-for-3 with a two-man advantage.

Playing a man up has been a focus in practice all week, Ruff said.

"We worked on it this whole week," senior Jim Terry said. "(On Thursday) I think we really nailed it. We were making crisp passes, keeping the cycles going and making the plays."

Despite its confidence, Steamboat should have its hands full with Air Academy's top line. Brandon Williams and Taylor Hendricks have combined for 44 goals and 43 assists this year. Williams leads the state with 25 goals, and Hendricks leads the state with 22 assists.

Although Williams and Hendricks have pestered other teams, Ruff said the Sailors know the two can be knocked off their game with physical play.

Evidence of this was how much time the Kadets spent in the penalty box - including two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties - in the first game against the Sailors, Ruff said.

Ruff said Steamboat also must establish a quick tempo that puts Air Academy on its heels.

"It's not do-or-die, it's do," Terry said. "We're going into it with the mindset - I mean they squeaked by last time - that we played a great game."

The winner of today's game will play at noon Saturday against the winner of Pine Creek and Pueblo County.

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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