Friday, December 19, 2008
It would be human nature for the members of the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team to overlook today's game with Chatfield in favor of Saturday's top-5 matchup with Lewis-Palmer.
But as each player filed into the locker room prior to Thursday's practice, they all insisted the focus is on the 6:30 p.m. contest with Chatfield.
"You just have to think of every team like they're going to be hard," Steamboat junior Jon Winkelblech said. "You have to look at it that way. You can't overlook anyone at this point. You have to take every team as a challenge."
Although the focus is on a 4-1-0 Chatfield team, it's hard not to at least gaze at the 3 p.m. Saturday game between No. 3 Steamboat and No. 2 Lewis-Palmer.
Lewis-Palmer (4-0-0) is coming off three one-goal wins against high school powerhouses Cheyenne Mountain, Ralston Valley and Air Academy.
Sailors coach Jeff Ruff knows how good Lewis-Palmer is and said Steamboat will have to play one of its best games of the year. Still, he said the focus at this point isn't necessarily on whom Steamboat (5-0-0) plays, but rather on how the Sailors play.
"We know Lewis-Palmer might be a little better of a team," Steamboat sophomore Jake Bearss said. "But we want to take it one game at a time, stay to our systems and use our speed."
Something Steamboat certainly built on last weekend was getting scoring from more than its first line. Whereas in the opening three games of the year the top line of Bearss, Cody Fritz and Winkelblech put up most of the scoring, last weekend the Sailors were more balanced.
Steamboat got four goals from its top line, three goals from its defense and three goals from its second line.
Ruff said continuing that will be a key as Steamboat approaches conference play.
"That's one of the things we've been talking about as a team," Ruff said. "If we only have one line that can score, we become easier to stop."
Steamboat certainly comes in a confident group. The Sailors' play in the third period has been crucial to their early success.
Through five games, Steamboat has outscored its opponents, 14-1, in the final frame.
That has Ruff believing that this Steamboat team has the capability of continuing its top play against any team.
"We're confident in our ability to play well," Ruff said. "There is a confidence that even if we're tied or down by a goal or more in the third period, with our conditioning level, we can be very successful. It's amazing how much our conditioning has won games for us. We have more puck possession, win more battles and generate more opportunities."