Sailors hockey preps for 2 games

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What: Steamboat Springs vs. Pine Creek hockey

When: Today at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Howelsen Ice Arena

Radio: KBCR 1230 AM

What: Steamboat Springs vs. Pueblo County hockey

When: Saturday at 1:15 p.m.

Where: Howelsen Ice Arena

Radio: KBCR 1230 AM

— When Steamboat Springs hockey coach Jeff Ruff looks at today's game against Pine Creek and Saturday's against Pueblo County, he can't help but be cautious.

"(Inconsistency) is very scary from a coaching standpoint," said Ruff, whose Sailors are 9-1-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play. "We've just been talking to the guys about our intensity level."

A quick look at Pine Creek (3-7-2, 1-3-2) and it's easy to assume Steamboat may skate to an easy win. Pine Creek lost, 3-0, to Coronado - a team Steamboat beat, 6-1 - earlier in the year. At the same time, it's easy to see why today's 6:30 p.m. game might feature back-and-forth action. Pine Creek beat Kent Denver, 5-4. Steamboat tied Kent Denver, 5-5.

"They've been shaky," forward Jim Terry said. "They play well against hard teams and then play a team like Mitchell and beat them barely in overtime. We're guessing they're going to be hungry and come out really hard against us."

One thing Ruff is certain of is Pine Creek is a very skilled and deep team, that at times struggles with consistent goaltending.

Ruff said the Sailors plan on getting the puck deep in the Eagles zone and putting a lot of shots on net.

"Shots that maybe against some teams we wouldn't take," Ruff said. "We want in the neighborhood of 35 or 40 shots."

Against Pueblo County (9-5, 5-2), Ruff said he expects a team very similar to Pine Creek - skilled offensively but struggling with goaltending.

For instance, the Pueblo County goaltender has a save percentage of 83. Steamboat's Jeff Dawes has one of 93.

"Pueblo County has always been up and down," Ruff said. "You never know what you're going to get."

Despite the unknowns, Ruff said the Sailors can't look at teams' records or future opponents. After this weekend's games, the Sailors play two of the top teams in the state - Air Academy and Battle Mountain - in their last four games.

"Right now, we're only looking at this weekend," Terry said. "We're not going to worry about those upcoming games until next week. Right now, we've got our eyes set on Pine Creek and Pueblo."

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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