Steamboat hockey skates to a tie with Mullen

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— Get two teams together that are battling for the playoffs, where each point means a step closer to that final spot, and Friday’s hockey game with Steamboat Springs and Mullen was probably fitting.

With one playoff spot remaining in the Foothills Conference, each team led multiple times Friday before finally settling on a 5-5 tie.

The tie leaves Steamboat in 10th place in the Foothills Conference. Mullen dropped to 11th.

The top eight teams from the conference make the playoffs.

“Mullen is in the same place we are,” Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. “They are trying to get points and into the playoff bracket. I think we did what we wanted in the first period, but then we started moving away from the game plan.”

After Mullen’s Ian Boyle put the Mustangs up 1-0 with a power-play goal, the Sailors answered with a pair of goals from Lance Ostrom and Jarret Walt to make it 2-1 after one period.

Then the Mustangs started to take advantage of sloppy play by the Sailors. In five minutes, the Mustangs turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.

Ostrom added his second goal late in the period to cut it to 4-3.

Mullen made it 5-3 early in the third with another power-play goal, before Ostrom scored again — his third of the game — and Walt sniped one midway through the period to tie it at 5 all.

“Those are the ones that look the coolest,” Walt said about his snipe from between the circles. “I shot it, and it ended up going in.”

Steamboat’s John Wharton took a game misconduct in the third period, forcing Steamboat to shuffle its top line.

The two teams traded decent chances at the end of the third and through overtime, but neither team could produce the game winner.

“It’s always big when one of your leading scorers ends up sitting in the penalty box for the rest of the game,” Ruff said. “We have enough depth that we could put it back together. I think it’s more of a mental blow than anything else.”

Steamboat now preps for another huge game at 3 p.m. Saturday against Standley Lake at Howelsen Ice Arena.

Standley Lake comes into the game third in the Foothills Conference.

“The playoffs start right now,” Walt said. “We can’t afford to lose. We have to do what we didn’t do (Friday). We have to stick to our game plan.”

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

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