Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School hockey team’s season has been a strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The Sailors have been good at points — darn good, in fact. But there have been times, especially down the stretch, when the team strays from its principles and has no business on the ice.
So which Steamboat team will show up at 3 p.m. today in the opening round of the state playoffs against Cheyenne Mountain at the Colorado Sports Center in Colorado Springs?
“I expect the good Sailors are going to show up this weekend,” coach Jeff Ruff said. “They have a lot to lose and a lot to prove to themselves. We’ve spent a lot of time talking this week about the mindset necessary for this.”
Steamboat, the No. 4 seed in the bottom bracket, and the No. 5 Indians aren’t strangers. The two teams played in the regular season for nine years before this season, when the Sailors moved to the Foothills Conference.
Those meetings always have gone Cheyenne Mountain’s way. The Sailors (13-5) never have beaten the Indians, but this year might be Steamboat’s best opportunity.
The teams share seven common opponents, with Steamboat going 5-2 and Cheyenne Mountain going 4-3 in those games.
Ruff said the key for Steamboat will be getting back to playing as it had earlier in the season. The Sailors lost their last two regular-season games by combined score of 12-4. For Steamboat to be successful today, the team has to get the puck deep and control the neutral zone.
Because both teams play a similar style of dumping the puck, the team that wins the battles behind the net should have a big advantage.
“They try and get the puck behind the net and feed the slots,” Ruff said. “We can’t allow any breakdowns in the defensive zone.”
If Steamboat wins, the team will play either No. 1 Lewis-Palmer or No. 8 Battle Mountain at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
But before looking ahead, Ruff said the team has to make sure to find the good Sailors.
“I think we have to play our own game and play the game we know we can,” he said. “Individually and collectively, we have to play the way we can. Not the way we sort of show sometimes.”