The enemies of the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team kept coming up through the first 30 minutes of Friday’s game with Rampart.
The Sailors had opportunity after opportunity but couldn’t get anything going on seven minutes of power play in the first period, and the teams had somehow skated into the final frame knotted at zero.
But hockey can be a cyclical game.
And when those opportunities kept coming and coming in the third period, Steamboat finally took advantage, skating away with a 3-0 win and establishing itself as one of the teams to beat in the Peak Conference.
“The key in a game like that is to keep reminding the guys that we do get opportunities, and we will score,” Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. “We can win games at the end in overtime. We can come back if we go down by a goal. We remind them on the bench we create our own luck with hard work. You got to win the battles to the puck. When we do win the battles, we’re a very good hockey team.”
In essence, it was winning those little battles in the first eight minutes of the third period that proved the difference.
Steamboat’s first goal came when Jon Winkelblech beat several Rampart defenders to a puck behind the Rams’ goal. Winkelblech centered a pass where the first Sailor missed on it, but senior Skyler Martin pounced on it and fired it between the legs of Rams goalie Eric Contino.
Just a minute later, senior Vladan Chase took a pass from Lance Ostrom just across the centerline, took two strides inside the blue line and ripped a laser for a 2-0 lead.
“We talked that this is our ice, and we don’t want to lose on our ice,” Chase said. “That goal, I wasn’t supposed to be on the ice. I was just dumping it in. I’m not sure how it went in.”
Steamboat limited Rampart’s chances in the final period, and junior Erik Owen was stellar in goal, stopping all 19 shots he faced for his first career high school shutout.
“The first goal got me excited and put me in position to win this game,” Owen said. “The second goal I got confident but calmed down and just worried about my game.”
Ostrom added an empty-net goal with just more than a minute left to create the final 3-0 score.
Steamboat, now 5-1-2, prepares for its biggest road trip of the season next weekend. The team plays at 8 p.m. Friday at state championship runner-up Lewis Palmer before meeting at 11 a.m. the next day at perennial power Air Academy.
If Steamboat comes away with a couple of wins, the team will have established itself as the team to beat in the Peak hockey conference.
“Every game is building for the next game,” Ruff said. “We think this game will help our guys see the speed and intensity of the next couple of teams we’ll face. I think it’s going to really help us.”