Steamboat Springs forward Matt Hale battles for a loose puck during Friday night's game against Aspen at Howelsen Ice Arena.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs forward Matt Hale battles for a loose puck during Friday night's game against Aspen at Howelsen Ice Arena.

Steamboat Springs hockey holds off Aspen to win King of the Mountain

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Steamboat Springs Christian Ramirez races toward the goal during Friday night's game against Aspen at Howelsen Ice Arena. The Sailors won, 4-3.

— Steamboat Springs goaltender Jesse Draper found out Thursday evening that he’d be starting in net for the first time this season.

And it wasn’t like Friday’s game with Aspen was inconsequential. The two teams came in undefeated, battling for the coveted King of the Mountain Cup presented to the top mountain-town school among Steamboat, Aspen, Battle Mountain and Summit.

Draper did everything he could — including six key stops on a late 5-on-3 — in helping Steamboat to a 4-3 win and rights to the cup.

Draper stopped 31 of the 34 shots he saw and was at his best in the third period.

“I’m always nervous,” said Draper, who had four starts last season. “It was just all focus. I like the pressure and embrace the pressure.”

Initially, it looked as if Steamboat would run away with the game. Jackson Perry and Matt Hale bookended goals around a Willy Doremus acore to give Steamboat a 2-1 first-period lead.

Hale rifled a wrister early in the second to give Steamboat a 3-1 lead before the penalties caught up with the Sailors.

The Sailors rode the fine line of aggressiveness and sin binnery. Steamboat picked up two early penalties in the third period, the latter of which gave Aspen a 5-on-3 for 57 seconds.

Draper did what he could, killing off the first of the two penalties, before Aspen's Colter Robinson put in a rebound. Two minutes later, Trey Robinson scored on another power play for Aspen, knotting the score at 3.

“We told the boys we’re still in this game,” Aspen coach Al Butler said. “We knew if they scored next, it would put a damper on the bench.”

Steamboat, however, got the go-ahead goal with 1 minute, 58 seconds left in the third. Quinn Cain and Michael Samuelson had a 2-on-1, when Cain ripped a shot off of Skiers goalie Alex Parrish. Samuelson crashed the net and pounded the rebound home to give the Sailors the lead for good, and Draper made three saves in the last minute.

“It was spectacular,” Draper said. “I love bringing home that trophy.”

The win improved Steamboat to 3-0.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” first-year Steamboat coach Brent Tollar said. “This is a great place to start.”

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

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