Steamboat Springs The Steamboat hockey team entered Saturday's home game unsuccessful in four of its first five games of the season and as a first year program going against last year's league champions, the West Jeffco Black Widows.
They made clear quickly that intimidation wasn't to be a factor. Steamboat took the puck after the opening faceoff, and nearly scored within the first minute. Annie Eggleston worked behind the net with the puck, then ducked around the side, slid a pass to her twin sister, Allie Eggleston, who hammered the shot toward the goal from point-blank range.
As she was so often in the doubleheader, West Jeffco goalie Sarah Blattner was there for the save. The Black Widows, faster and better controlling the puck all night, eventually found goals of its own, winning the first game of the night, 2-1, and the second, 5-0.
"I think we probably could have beat them, but I was still proud of our effort," sophomore Marilyn Harris said.
The night wasn't without a wealth of Steamboat highlights. Heidi Cordell scored the team's only goal with one minute, 59 seconds remaining in the second period of the first game. Waiting near the net as Steamboat advanced up the ice, she turned on a pass from Jessica Fox, sliding the puck past Blattner's left skate.
"We played really well," Steamboat coach Rick Pighini said. "We did a great job on faceoffs. We were good with cross-ice passes. All the small things we'd been working on, we did well."
Steamboat had plenty of other chances in the first game, but Blattner was stellar in goal, deflecting eight on-target shots to ensure West Jeffco's two early goals would hold up. Steamboat possessed the puck better in the third period, helping relieve Steamboat goalie Rashelle Stetman while threatening on several occasions to tie the game.
Stetman, playing her best hockey of the night in the first game, helped keep the score close as well.
Blattner didn't relent, however. Steamboat out-shot West Jeffco, 20-18, but never found a consistent way to the back of the net.
"She's big. It was hard to get stuff past her," Harris said of Blattner.
The Black Widows again got to a fast start in the second game, scoring two goals in the first seven minutes.
Steamboat responded with its own pressure, threatening on several occasions in the second period with West Jeffco down two players. That pressure couldn't prevent the game from being blown open, however, with the Black Widows adding two goals just 43 seconds apart in the third period.
"We had a lot more energy in the first game," Pighini said. "We ran into a team that had a lot more experience playing hockey than we did."
For many of the players, Saturday's action was about more than the final scores, frustrated breakaways or a red-hot goalie. It was the Steamboat program's first home game, the cumulation of a long-running effort to add a high school girls hockey team.
The fans erupted at every home-team breakaway and save. Players on the bench danced to the music during breaks in play and Stetman swayed along, even while standing in goal waiting for the puck to drop for a faceoff.
"We don't take these games as life or death, win or lose. We take them as a learning experience," Harris said. "It was so nice to play at home. It would have been really cool to have a better turnout, but as the years progress, that will come."
- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com