Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat senior Lance Ostrom works the puck up the ice Saturday during a scrimmage against Aspen. Although the Steamboat hockey team returns several upperclassmen, including Ostrom, its sophomore class is expected to play a large part in its push for a successful season.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Steamboat Springs High school sports are cyclical.
When one class comes and one class goes, a season can turn any which way.
One class can change a whole lot, and one special class can do something else entirely.
So as the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team rolled out its 2011-12 incarnation for the first time Saturday during a scrimmage at Howelsen Ice Arena, it was hard not to notice the brimming skill levels of athletes with strange names on the backs of their red and white jerseys.
Gone are six seniors from last year’s team that lost 2-1 in overtime to eventual state champion Lewis-Palmer in the second round. Enter a sophomore class that’s experienced success in the past and is expected to be a big part of Steamboat hockey.
Sophomores Bobby Elliott, Matt Hale, Jackson Perry, Quinn Cain, Ryan Walker, Ben Wharton and Trent Trask made the varsity team this season. Each experienced the success of winning a state title in 2009 with the peewee team or in 2010 with the bantam team.
“Certainly, that success is going to help us,” Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. “Through these scrimmages and first early games of the season, they need to raise their level of play to this level. I know they all can skate, shoot and pass. They just can’t play as much hero hockey.”
What’s made the group highly successful is that sense of playing as a team.
“The thing that made them special was they all realized they didn’t have the superstar mentality,” said Bob Milne, who coached both state championship teams. “They realized we were a team. They believe in that hardened spirit.”
Milne said he had no doubt the sophomores would be successful not only because of how the team has done in the past but also because of the way they did it.
In the peewee state championship game, the team tied the score with 1.7 seconds left and eventually won in overtime. In the bantam state championship game, the team tied the game with three seconds left and again won in overtime.
“They learned to believe and don’t give up until the buzzer goes off,” Milne said. “I can see why they all made the varsity.”
Although Steamboat lost several key playmakers, the team does return one of the top lines in the state in John and Ben Wharton and Lance Ostrom.
That line, however, will get the bulk of opponents’ attention. As is always the case in high school hockey, the team with the deepest team usually does well.
Ruff will be counting on the sophomores to fill gaps.
“We’ve been on the same team since we were really young,” Cain said. “We know what it takes to be on a winning team. We’ve been together so long, we know what it takes.”
If Saturday’s scrimmage was any indication, the Sailors will be just fine with all its sophomores. The level of play didn’t seem to let up.
Ruff said the exciting thing is that the team — and the young sophomores — is just going to keep getting better.
“That’s got to be the plan,” Ruff said. “We can’t just ignore their development and hope our upperclassmen will get the job done. They have to play a supporting role in our season.”
— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com