Steamboat Springs hockey team falls to Monarch

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— The Steamboat Springs High School hockey season has been full of conundrums.

The Sailors have been good. They have been bad. And when it counted most Saturday, Steamboat was at its best.

But it wasn’t enough.

A Steamboat team battling for its playoff life couldn’t do enough against Foothills-leading Monarch, falling 6-4.

The Sailors, who were without three forwards because of injuries Friday, certainly could have laid down after a horrible eight minutes of hockey.

The Coyotes immediately seized play from the opening face-off, taking a 3-0 lead halfway through the period, thoughts of a running clock in their minds.

Monarch’s Jake Christofferson had netted a hat trick just 7 minutes, 56 seconds into the first period.

“We came out flying,” Coyotes coach Jimmy Dexter said.

But Steamboat battled. Michael Samuelson found Jarret Walt in the front of the net to cut the score to 3-1 at 11:45 into the period.

Three minutes later, Ben Wharton deflected a Christian Ramirez slap shot in on the power play to cut it to 3-2. Finally, Walt and Samuelson hooked up again on a shorthanded chance. Walt made a great play to chip the puck out of the zone, and Samuelson blasted it home to send the two teams to the first intermission tied at 3.

“Michael worked so hard on that shift,” Steamboat coach Brent Tollar said. “He was working hard and seeing everything through. It’s not lay back (and kill the penalty), and Michael put that goal in. We felt it. We felt the momentum.”

Christofferson added his fourth of the game midway through the second to stake the Coyotes to a 4-3 lead heading into the third period.

Alex Barber scored a power play goal to make it 5-3 Monarch before Steamboat answered again.

Jordan Gorr dumped the puck in and beat his man to behind the net. He turned and fired a pass in front, where Tyler Scott one-timed it for a power play goal and a 5-4 deficit.

The Sailors had several more chances during the next four minutes, but Coyotes goalie Aiko Kyle, who came in relief of starter Ian Oden in the first period, was lights out in the final period.

Noah Zimmerman iced it for the Coyotes with a long wrister in the third, and the Sailors took several late penalties to end the game.

“It would be so disappointing if we don’t get" to the Final Four, said Dexter, whose team improved to 15-1 and maintained its spot as the top seed in the Foothills Conference. “But anything can happen in playoff hockey. It’s one-game elimination.”

Now Steamboat is in a precarious position. The Sailors (7-8-2) are in 11th spot in the conference. The top eight teams make it. Steamboat is two points behind eighth-seeded Battle Mountain.

With two games remaining, the Sailors need wins and some help.

The team plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against Summit and at 3 p.m. Saturday at home against Ralston Valley, the No. 2 team in the conference.

“We have to win both to be in the (playoff) discussion,” Tollar said. “Our backs are against the wall, and we have to throw everything against that. We’re playing great hockey right now. That’s been our goal since Day One.”

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

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