The plan for the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team today, as it returns to the ice at 6:30 p.m. at Howelsen Ice Arena against Doherty, is awfully simple.
Whatever the Sailors did last Friday in a game against Pueblo County, do the opposite.
"This is going to be a big test, because last weekend we were in a position where we knew if we played well, we should have been successful. Yet, we came out, played selfish hockey and gave away a conference game," Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. "Our challenge this week is to play the kind of team game we know we can play."
Steamboat let its second loss of the year slip between its fingers against Pueblo County. The most frustrating part, Ruff said, was that the game was one of the most winnable on the team's schedule. Steamboat, now 7-2, lost to a team that's 2-7.
Ruff said his players were too slow getting to open pucks and too selfish when they actually had one.
He said Steamboat whiffed on an opportunity to slam the door on the game in the first period, then paid for the absence of a killer instinct as Pueblo County hung around and eventually took the game.
Now, facing a similar opponent - Doherty is just 3-6 on the season and has been outscored by 15 goals - senior Eric Bonner said it's critical his team not make the same mistakes.
"We have a real opportunity, but we can't take anyone lightly," Bonner said. "If we come out and play our game the way we know we can play, it will be good."
As frustrating as last weekend's loss was for the Sailors, they did take solace in their Saturday performance, a 4-1 win against Rampart.
In that contest, Steamboat was the aggressor.
"A four- or five-hour bus ride down to Colorado Springs to play Rampart gave us time to talk through a lot of our problems," Ruff said. "This week, I had the guys watch the second period of the Rampart game, then the second period of the Pueblo game, and pretty visually they could see what they did wrong."
A win tonight would be a big boost to a Steamboat squad in need of a conference victory. It could also be an important warm-up for a difficult Monday showdown against Battle Mountain.
Steamboat thumped the Huskies, 4-0, early last month, but Battle Mountain now sits near the top of the Peak Conference with a 3-0 conference record.
But that challenge is still a few days away, and Steamboat is confident entering tonight's game against Doherty.
"They have the opportunity to make good with their fans," Ruff said about his team. "We let them down (with) the type of hockey played (last) Friday night. This is a great opportunity to make that up."