Steamboat hockey falls in the playoffs

Ralston Valley defeats Sailors, 7-4

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— A hat trick from Jake Bearss couldn’t keep the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team’s playoff hopes alive Saturday evening.

The Sailors fell in the quarterfinals in Vail, losing, 7-4, to Ralston Valley High School, of Arvada. But Steamboat finished the season with a 14-5-2 record and was one of the top teams in its league, coach Jeff Ruff said.

Saturday’s game was a physical one against a powerful Ralston Valley team, Ruff said.

“Ralston Valley’s a tough team, and we felt like we could play with them, and for a lot of the game we did,” he said.

But the Sailors couldn’t get ahead despite Bearss’ scores in the second and third periods. Part of the problem was that Vladan Chase wasn’t playing after suffering a concussion during Friday night’s playoff win against Summit High School, Ruff said. Chase is one of the team’s top scorers.

“It’s an unfortunate loss, and that makes a difference,” Ruff said. “That’s at least a one goal difference or a two-goal difference, plus his quality defensive play. We missed it.”

Bearss scored two in the second period and one in the third. Patrick Weston had two assists. Ruff said seniors Ian Anderson, Kaelen Gunderson and Jon Winkelblech also offered up “inspired play.”

Mitchell Pijanowski, of Ralston Valley, scored first in the first period, but Winkelblech tied the score about a minute later. Connor Mize, of Ralston, hit a shot soon after, putting the score at 2-1.

In the second period, Ben Tucker, Ryan Finnefrock and Kyle Bennett put goals in for Ralston Valley. Bearss answered twice, and the score was 5-3 at the close of the period. Chris Lupinski and Tucker scored for Ralston in the third, and Bearss put in another to make the score 7-4.

Despite the season-ending loss, Ruff said he was pleased with the team’s overall play. He called the season a successful one.

“You have to win to move on, and we didn’t do that, but I’m very proud of the team,” Ruff said. “I’m very proud of the guys, and this loss will never change that, and it’ll never change the kind of season these guys had. They played really good hockey together. … I think it’s something they’ll remember for a long time.”

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