The Steamboat Springs High School hockey team practices Thursday at Howelsen Ice Arena. Steamboat will scrimmage with three teams Saturday at Howelsen.

Photo by Matt Stensland

The Steamboat Springs High School hockey team practices Thursday at Howelsen Ice Arena. Steamboat will scrimmage with three teams Saturday at Howelsen.

Steamboat hockey team to play 3 teams in scrimmage Saturday at Howelsen

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If you go

What: Steamboat Springs High School hockey team scrimmage

When: Steamboat plays Doherty at 10:30 a.m., Peak to Peak at 5:10 p.m. and Palmer at 6:20 p.m. Saturday

Where: Howelsen Ice Arena

Cost: Free

— Steamboat Springs High School hockey coach Jeff Ruff knows what a difference early season scrimmages can make.

The team might not have gone as far last year without an early season scrimmage that brought three Front Range teams to Steamboat for a day.

“Really, last year, this was the difference between getting in the quarterfinals of the playoffs and not,” Ruff said before practice Thursday.

It worked so well that Steam­boat will do it again Saturday at Howelsen Ice Arena. In addition to Steamboat, Doherty, Pal­­mer and Peak to Peak will attend for a day of hockey. Admission is free.

Steamboat plays Doherty at 10:30 a.m., Peak to Peak at 5:10 p.m. and Palmer at 6:20 p.m.

In a year when Steamboat might have as good a team as it ever has, this will be the first chance to look at a deep and experienced Sailors team.

Steamboat returns its top line of Jake Bearss, Lance Ost­rom and John Wharton, in addition to senior goaltenders Erik Owen and Joey Haight. 

“This is as strong a team as we’ve put together in a few years, really,” Ruff said.

The focus of Saturday’s scrimmage will be to see what line combinations work and whether some of the younger players can play at the varsity level.

But the bigger purpose might be to see some different competition.

“The nice part is it’s a warm-up before our first game,” Bearss said. “The lines have time to come together, and it’s a lot easier to hit someone who isn’t on your team. It gives us competition. Without it, it’s practice three weeks straight.”

Ruff said the advantages of the scrimmage are too good to pass up. For the Front Range teams, it serves as a team-building component to the season. For Steamboat, the players don’t have to scrimmage one another nonstop and can find out what game action is before the season, which has proved invaluable in the past.

“We’ll get the kinks out before the season,” Owen said. “We feel like this could be a really good year. It’s about finding chemistry with line mates. It’s finding chemistry between the defense and the offense. We’re psyched for it.”

Steamboat begins the regular season at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at home against rival Battle Mountain.

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