Sailors hockey skates into playoffs

Confident Steamboat squad faces Peak to Peak tonight in Denver

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No. 8 Steamboat vs. No. 9 Peak to Peak hockey

  • Friday, February 20, 2009, 8:10 p.m.
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Steamboat Springs Hockey, 2008-09

It doesn't take long to understand how focused and excited the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team is for the opening of the state playoffs.

On the eve of the game Thursday, and with the rest of the high school on Blues Break, the parking lot was filled with cars 45 minutes before practice.

Most players were dressed and itching to get on the ice 15 minutes before practice, and there was a subtle confidence in the conversations being thrown around.

There is no doubt No. 8 Steamboat is ready for today's 8:10 p.m. game against No. 9 Peak to Peak at the Family Sports Center in Denver.

"We certainly are confident," Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. "Both (assistant coach) Dave (Strang) and I feel strongly this team is capable of going to the Final Four. Certainly beating Peak to Peak and Regis will be a challenge. But the confidence in our locker room is very, very high."

Steamboat is coming off its most impressive win of the year last Saturday, a 2-0 dismantling of Palmer.

Ruff said the team has watched the Palmer tape extensively this week in preparation for today's game.

"It showed them this is our style of play and this is how we're going to play," Ruff said. "We have a real good feeling they can do it. They proved to themselves several times this season they can raise the bar of their own play."

Peak to Peak finished sixth in the Foothills Conference with a 8-9-2 record. The Pumas are led by forward Shay Longtain and his team-leading 28 points. The team has been up and down all year and is 0-3-1 in its past four games.

Ruff said he has talked to several coaches who informed him the Pumas are a fast team with a very dangerous top line.

"They'll do a good job of capitalizing on turnovers," Ruff said.

If Steamboat wins, the team will play the winner of No. 16 Doherty and No. 1 Regis at 5:40 p.m. on Saturday. Regis won the state tournament last year and has not lost in 22 games.

"We haven't even mentioned Regis," Ruff said. "They know it's out there, and it could be a challenge. I think right now this team is very confident in only looking at one game. I think they have their heads in the right place on this Peak to Peak game. There is no Regis game unless we are successful in the Peak to Peak game."

The keys, Ruff said, will be to get quick shifts and keep the pressure on the Pumas the entire game.

If the Sailors are able to do that, Ruff said he has no doubt Steamboat will advance.

"This team," Ruff said, "wants it more than any other team Dave and I have worked with in the last eight years."

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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