Steamboat Springs High School senior Jarret Walt, center, fights for control of the puck during Saturday's game against Ralston Valley High School. Ralston Valley won, 2-1. The loss ended the season for Steamboat.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School senior Jarret Walt, center, fights for control of the puck during Saturday's game against Ralston Valley High School. Ralston Valley won, 2-1. The loss ended the season for Steamboat.

Steamboat Springs hockey team falls in last game of season

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— There is a lot to be said about the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team’s 2012-13 season.

What started out with so much hope turned into an up-and-down, bumpy ride. But maybe more than anything, Saturday’s showing against Foothills Conference champion Ralston Valley revealed the most.

The Sailors, by way of a 3-3 tie Friday with Summit, had little to play for Saturday. Steamboat’s playoff hopes were dashed, and Ralston needed a win to secure the conference championship.

The Sailors gave the Mustangs all they could handle, eventually falling, 2-1, at Howelsen Ice Arena.

“It says a lot,” Steamboat coach Brent Tollar said. “Two things could have happened coming into today: It could have been, 'We know we’re out of playoffs,' and the team can say, 'It doesn’t matter' and 'Let’s do some dumb stuff.' Or they could choose what the boys did and play hard and stay composed.”

It certainly had the makings of what appeared like two of the top teams in the Foothills Conference.

But the Mustangs answered first.

Ian Snedden pounced on a rebound midway through the first period to send Ralston Valley up 1-0.

“Ralston Valley has never played well up here,” Mustangs coach Matt Schoepflin said. “It’s our first win up here in Steamboat. Steamboat always shows up to play, especially on home ice. I think it’s always important to get one early and lose a little of that anxiety.”

Steamboat answered early in the second period when Bobby Elliott found the back of the net on a rebound in front to tie the score at 1.

The two teams skated evenly for much of the rest of the game. Finally, the Mustangs’ Nathan Mikesell wristed a shot from just inside the blue line that Sailors goalie Trent Trask never saw because of a screen, giving Ralston a 2-1 advantage.

Steamboat never could get anything going in the final moments.

For the Mustangs, the likely No. 1 seed in the state playoffs, it’s on to bigger things.

The team lost in the state finals last year and has another appearance with a different outcome on its mind.

“There is lots of motivation in that locker room to get back and win one for Ralston Valley,” Schoepflin said.

For Steamboat, it’s what might have been. The Sailors will look at its inconsistent play — including an 0-4 start out of the holiday break — and road struggles as prime culprits.

Steamboat finished just 2-7-1 outside Howelsen this year.

“One is consistency and one is road play,” Tollar said about the team's struggles this season.

"For now, we want to enjoy and celebrate the seniors,” he said.

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

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