Billy Taylor, right, sneaks a shot on goal past defender Ian Anderson during the Sailors' hockey practice at Howelsen Ice Arena on Thursday afternoon.

Billy Taylor, right, sneaks a shot on goal past defender Ian Anderson during the Sailors' hockey practice at Howelsen Ice Arena on Thursday afternoon.

Steamboat boys hockey ready to focus on pivotal league games

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— Nothing has come easy this season for the Steamboat Springs High School boys hockey team.

Kicking off its season against some of the state's staunchest opponents left Steamboat in a 0-4 hole. Since then, the Sailors have regrouped to win four of their past five games to start Peak Conference play. During that streak, the Sailors have outscored opponents, 23-9, and established themselves atop the conference standings.

But now the team is faced with its toughest challenge yet.

Returning Saturday from last weekend's two-win road trip - in which it shut out conference powerhouse Air Academy, 2-0, and lambasted Coronado, 9-1 - the team learned of the death of teammate Cole Verploeg, a junior back-up goalkeeper.

Fortunately, the Sailors feel like they are coming together for what Steamboat head coach Jeff Ruff called a pivotal two-game weekend. Tonight, Steamboat takes on a skilled 7-1-1 Lewis-Palmer squad currently ranked No. 4 in the state by the Rocky Mountain News. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. at Monument's Colorado Sports Center. Steamboat then returns to the Pueblo Plaza Ice Arena at noon Saturday for a rematch with a Pueblo County team it beat, 3-2, on Dec. 21.

"I feel like we've started to come together as a team - believing in each other, buying into the systems and the younger kids starting to play with confidence," senior winger Cam Fritz said before Thursday's practice.

While Fritz noted how emotionally tough the week's first practices were, he assured the Sailors would be ready to put three periods together against a talented Lewis-Palmer team.

Ruff said his team will need that focus to match the solid offensive and defensive systems play as well as the dual ability to shut down opponents' top players and regroup in the neutral zone. That kind of play led to the Sailors' best games of the year, Jan. 5 against Cheyenne Mountain and last week at Air Academy.

"We'll do the best we can with these circumstances," Ruff said. "I think the best thing these guys can do is rally around each other, and if we can come away with two wins, we'll have some positive emotion there."

The players are ready to hit the ice and concentrate on the game assignments at hand.

"When we're on the ice, it's our place to let everything go," Fritz said.

Comments

lowerprofile 6 years, 3 months ago

K - Monday was a planned school district "staff work day"

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raver 6 years, 3 months ago

Thank you Pilot for respecting this horrible family tragedy and respecting the Verploeg family-To all of you who have the idea that this is YOUR business,it is not.If you feel the need to address a subject such as suicide,write an article ,or a letter or be proactive.Stop using these tragedies as your soapboxes.Give people thier privacy.

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mud 6 years, 3 months ago

I coached Cole a few years back and this is the first I heard of it....Rest in peace buddy. Does anyone know anything about services?

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lhaskett1 6 years, 3 months ago

I agree with raver. What the young man's family is going through dealing with his tragic death is unimaginable, without having to have it hashed out in a public newspaper. RESPECT is the key word and I applaud the Pilot for showing the proper respect for the family's private grief.

katrinakelly, you did not even have the young man's identity straight before climbing on your soapbox and berating the Pilot for not invading a grief-stricken family's privacy. Next time, you should think a little harder before rushing to judgment.

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katrinkakelly 6 years, 3 months ago

May I suggest that it depends on who you are around here as to how "heart breaking" news is being reported or not in the paper? Were other minors recent deaths and how it happened kept out of this paper?! It is extremely obvious that the Pilot is VERY selective on reporting the truth about a story! Suicide is an epidemic for our youth and not a soapbox issue at all!

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noname642 6 years, 3 months ago

It's the family's decision to give the newspaper information about the death.

Let the Verploeg family grieve in peace, stop trying to force something to be said.

Stop trying to stand on a soap box, it's seriously ridiculous.

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katrinkakelly 6 years, 2 months ago

stand on a soap box, it's seriously ridiculous?

Come on noname, I beg to differ..................this was kept out of the paper because of his father, a doctor here in town! That is a soapbox to me, especially when all other deaths (even a local who died out of state) are reported.

Sunday's article by the Dye's was BRAVE & EXCELLENT !!

Tom Gangel, director of Steamboat Mental Health, said Routt County's suicide rate is high when compared to other places in the Rocky Mountain region, which has the highest suicide rate in the country.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, seven suicides were reported in Routt County in 2007, which is up from five in 2005. In any given year, roughly 600 Coloradans commit suicide, and suicide is the No. 1 cause of death for teens in Colorado.

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