Steamboat Springs High School sophomore Mason Bates passes the puck during Saturday night’s game against Pueblo County.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School sophomore Mason Bates passes the puck during Saturday night’s game against Pueblo County.

Steamboat hockey team beats Pueblo County despite defensive issues

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— There are a couple of ways Saturday’s Steamboat Springs-Pueblo County hockey game can be viewed.

For the eternal optimist, the 9-5 Steamboat win showed just how dangerous this Sailors team can be, now with two legitimate scoring lines. But for a team with big playoff aspirations, the multiple defensive breakdowns that led to goals have to be a grave area of concern.

Let’s let Steamboat Springs coach Jeff Ruff do both.

“There is no question we can’t give up those type of defensive zone turnovers to create opportunities for other teams,” he said. “Pueblo County is a good team. We know they’re a team that likes to step up on turnovers and transition quickly.

“But on the other end, the forwards were putting the puck in the net and creating good opportunities.”

In a game where goaltenders got sunburns from the lamp getting lit so much, Steamboat’s scoring depth proved the difference.

Steamboat’s second line of Blayne Conroy, Alex Elliott and Ben Wharton showed just how far the group has come. After Steamboat had two defensive giveaways that gave Pueblo County an early 2-1 lead, the Sailors’ second line took over.

Elliott got the equalizer and Whar­­ton got the go-ahead goal in a matter of minutes at the end of the first to send Steamboat into the second period with a 3-2 lead and a scoring advantage the team never would let go.

“We’re just enjoying it and making good plays,” said Elliott, who had a pair of goals and two assists. “I feel like our passes are getting crisper and our systems are getting smoother.”

Steamboat junior Lance Ostrom added a hat trick and an assist to help balance out the scoring, but he gave a nod to the second line for making Steamboat so dangerous.

“They’re holding strong,” Ostrom said. “They’re giving us a run for our money. They keep putting them in, and they’re creating competition between our lines. It’s good to have that competition in there.”

Steamboat is now 8-1. The team next plays at 3 p.m. Mon­­day at As­­pen. The Skiers gave the Sailors their lone loss on the season, a 3-1 win in Steam­­boat in Dec­­em­­ber.

In that game, Steamboat admittedly overlooked Aspen and vowed Saturday that it wouldn’t happen again.

“It’s going to be an emotional game,” Ostrom said. “We’re all fired up to get back at them. We’re going to try and do to them what they did to us here.”

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