Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs boys lacrosse coach Bob Hiester had good reason to believe Friday's game against Summit (2-3) was a fine start to what will surely become an annual tradition. In their first meeting, the instant rivals played an intensely physical game to gain a Foothills Conference win and a stake to the claim of the Western Slope's best team sanctioned under the Colorado High School Activities Association.
After going back and forth throughout the game and entering the final five minutes tied at seven, Steamboat proved to be the hungrier team. The Sailors scored the game's final two goals to earn their first season win in front of a sizable Gardner Field crowd.
"We reflected on other games, like the whole Green Mountain game where we all played good, but had that feeling of regret," Steamboat attackman Kevin Bertrand said of the team's recent double-overtime loss.
"With Summit, we weren't underestimating them, but we came out fighting."
Bertrand led the offensive charge for Steamboat with a game-high five goals, scoring the first on an unassisted dodge inside to give Steamboat an early lead.
Summit dominated faceoffs, ground balls and possession time early but, except for a goal from Brad Zimmerman, could not convert. Steamboat, on the other hand, took advantage of three of its four fleeting trips to the offensive end as Grant Ehrick passed to Tyler Ostrom in transition and Bertrand converted an extra-man shot.
"The funny part is our defense has been the hallmark of our team," Summit coach Jay Beckerman said. "They just didn't give us the effort and our guys were not playing to their potential."
Steamboat opened the second quarter with a botched clearing attempt that Jimmy Keeling put away to spark a Summit run behind two goals from Tucker Sheldon. Keeling then assisted Rudi Turrin to give Summit a 5-4 lead, but Bertrand disrupted a clear of his own to even the score going into the half.
"In the second half, our (defense) really came to play, especially stepping it up on man-down, and I'm just really proud of every one of them," Steamboat goalie Scot Forney said. Forney and Summit goalie Eric Metzger each had seven saves.
Steamboat's man-down defense shut down a Summit opportunity, and then a Forney save led to a shorthanded goal from Chase Grippa, who also had three assists in the game. But again, Summit evened the score with an outside shot from Cody Thomas.
Grippa broke open a sloppy fourth quarter, tied at seven, when he fed Jasper Gantick on an extra-man chance. Steamboat then gained a key possession as Alex Palaniuk ran through a gauntlet of checks on a hard-fought clear. After working the ball around, Sean Forney found Gus Worden wide-open, who ripped a lefty shot from 15 yards out to seal the win, 9-7.
"They showed up more in the second half and the (defense) started pressuring more and pushing us out," said Summit attackman Max O'Neill. "A good mountain rivalry, for sure."
Steamboat plays Fort Collins at 11 a.m. today in its final home game of the season.