Sailors hockey preps for grueling weekend

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— The plan is simple.

Play the systems, skate with confidence for three periods - much like the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team did in last week's 5-4 loss to Cheyenne Mountain - and the rest will take care of itself.

"If we play the kind of game we played against Cheyenne Mountain, we don't have to worry about them," Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said.

"We just need to take the opportunities when they come and limit theirs, and we'll be successful."

Ruff and the Sailors have two upcoming opportunities to put their newfound confidence to work - the team plays at 7:30 tonight at Air Academy and at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Coronado.

The matchup against Air Academy should be the real test.

The Kadets made the state Final Four last year and return another strong roster expected to make another deep playoff run. On Wednesday, Air Academy beat Cheyenne Mountain, 4-2.

"They've been coached by the same guy the past four years," Ruff said. "We know what their style of play is going to be like."

While Ruff knows the Sailors "will have their hands full" with Air Academy, he said he's seen the Sailors continue to grow as a team since the holiday break.

Looking back at the Cheyenne Mountain game, Ruff said a key component was his ability to use three lines throughout the game.

"If we can roll three lines, and get three lines playing consistently good hockey, it's hard to play against," Ruff said. "We felt positive that we were outskating Cheyenne Mountain because they were fatigued."

While Coronado isn't quite to the level of Air Academy, Ruff said Steamboat has had a tendency this year to play to the level of its opponent.

Still, Ruff said, with the team's confidence going into the weekend, he expects Steamboat to get back into the Pikes Peak League race.

"Practice was a little tough this week with finals because we never had a full team," Ruff said.

"However, there's a lot of buying into our system. We're confident, and we're ready."

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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