Steamboat Springs senior John Wharton takes a shot on goal Tuesday afternoon while running through drills at the Sailors' hockey practice at Howelsen Ice Arena.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs senior John Wharton takes a shot on goal Tuesday afternoon while running through drills at the Sailors' hockey practice at Howelsen Ice Arena.

Steamboat hockey prepares for start of season

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The members of the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team are busy preparing for the winter season, which opens with a game Nov. 30 against the Huskies in Battle Mountain.

— Questions and answers always abound at this point in the season.

For the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team, both are plentiful for a team coming off a record season.

Let’s start with the answers: Steamboat has a top line that could compete with anyone in the state. Ben and John Wharton as well as Lance Ostrom almost assuredly will provide scoring punch night in and night out.

Ostrom, an all-state selection last year, returns after tying for the Foothills Conference lead in goals last season.

Beyond that, it’s question after question: Can a junior class with some experience from last year parlay that into success? Can a big and already successful sophomore class make the necessary jump to varsity hockey? Who, among three contenders, will take the goaltending job and make it their own?

“Our goal, I guess, this year is to go into winter break with a lot of confidence in what we’re doing before we start a large bulk of our conference season,” Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. “With this group, we’ve talked about realistic short-term goals.”

“Short-term” also could mean no one is sure exactly what to expect.

Steamboat won a state playoff game last year and fell in overtime to eventual state champion Lewis Palmer in the second round.

Asking the new team to do that much would seem like quite the task.

No doubt there is younger talent, with a sophomore class that includes players who won a state championship in bantam and peewee hockey.

Although Ruff wasn’t quite sure what to expect, that second round of the playoffs has set the barometer for the program.

“I think my goal would be to make it to that second round again,” Ruff said. “From there, you know how high school sports are. When you get to that second round with eight teams, it’s a penalty here or a funny bounce there that eventually separates four of the eight teams.”

The brunt of Steamboat’s season will depend on how that sophomore class comes together and who among Jessie Draper, Thomas Tarcha and Trent Trask takes command of the goaltending duties.

Ruff said there is no shortage of talent on the team, and it wouldn’t surprise him if the team made a run at the end of the season.

But the sooner those questions become answers, the better, Ruff said.

“Our guys have to adapt to the speed of the high school game,” he said. “They have to adapt to the physical nature, and they have to contribute.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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