Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs High School hockey coach Jeff Ruff has challenged his players to own their level of play throughout the season.
The players seem to be catching on.
A week after nearly beating top program Cheyenne Mountain, Steamboat picked up its biggest win of the year Friday night, downing Air Academy, 2-0.
Steamboat followed up the win with a 9-1 thrashing of Coronado on Saturday.
"This is exactly what we've been working toward as a team," Ruff said. "As a coaching staff we believed our team could play like this. Now, we have to keep doing it."
Against Air Academy - a team that qualified for the state Final Four last year - Ruff said Steamboat dictated the pace of play.
Cam Fritz gave the Sailors a 1-0 lead 11 minutes into the second period, when he took a feed in front of the goal from center Gregg Ingalls.
"It was a great play by Gregg," Ruff said.
Steamboat scored a shorthanded goal two minutes later when Alex Palaniuk fed Cody Fritz in the middle of the ice. Fritz took the puck on a breakaway and snuck it through the five-hole - between the goalie's legs - to give Steamboat a 2-0 lead.
That was all the Sailors needed, as senior goalie Jeff Dawes turned away 30 shots, including 11 in the third period.
"He had an excellent game," Ruff said of Dawes. "The referees awarded him with the game puck. Anytime Air Academy was really trying to mount some kind of comeback, he did a great job for us."
Against Coronado, Ruff said Steamboat won the game before the first puck had dropped.
"They were pretty beat when they were warming up. They were not looking forward to playing us," Ruff said of Coronado. "We want to be a team that people try to avoid. We want people in the opposing locker room to be like, 'we don't want to play these guys.'"
After skating to a 2-1 lead through one period of play, Ruff said he challenged Steamboat to not play down to Coronado's level, but rather to play up to Steamboat's ability.
The Sailors responded with seven goals in the final two periods, with scoring from all four lines.
Kerry Timmerman, Cody and Cam Fritz, Billy Taylor, Tim Rabbitt, Gus Worden, Jake Bearss, Ingalls and Palaniuk all added goals in the game.
Steamboat continues play at 6:30 p.m. Friday, when the team travels to Lewis-Palmer. Steamboat then plays at noon Saturday at Pueblo.
"We're not going away," Ruff said. "We're just going to keep getting better and better each weekend."