Steamboat Springs The week leading up to Steamboat Springs High School hockey’s first game in early December, Sailors coach Brent Tollar stressed the need to start strong and finish even hotter.
With two-thirds of the season now in the books after a 3-1 home win against Battle Mountain on Friday night, Steamboat seems to be hitting that hot stride.
The No. 10 Sailors now are 3-0-1 since Jan. 10 and 8-4-1 overall, including three-straight victories by a combined score of 12-2.
Things didn’t come easy in the win against the Huskies, though, as the Sailors’ penalty minutes stacked up and Battle Mountain narrowly missed on a few point-blank opportunities at the Steamboat net.
“It’s a good thing to say, ‘I don’t think we played our best game and we won 3-1,’” Tollar said. “I think the kids know there are things they could do better. It was just a night we didn’t seem to flow like we did before.”
The second-year coach said his team has started to taste its winning formula, which seemed to be lost during a rough mid-season stretch from December to early January.
And even though that formula didn’t completely surface against Battle Mountain, a pair of Ben Wharton goals in the first period followed up by a second-period Brandon Martin score made all the difference.
“We all know what level we can play at,” said Sailors goalie Trent Trask, who locked up 15 Battle Mountain shots in the win. “When we come out and aren’t quite there some days, we all know it. It’s not a good feeling.”
The wins are starting to steadily pile up for Steamboat with six games remaining in the regular season and some much-needed depth is following.
“Our goal at the start of the season this year was build a team that’s ready to play in the playoffs,” Tollar said. “To do that, you need depth. You’ve got to be competitive on every shade.”
A few bumps and bruises are starting to cut into that depth a little bit, though.
The penalty box minutes are frustrating, as well. The Sailors recorded 27 penalty minutes to the Huskies’ 14.
“You look at the sport of hockey and just crunch the numbers, you can’t win in the penalty box,” Tollar said. “You have to kind of play back and let it come to you.”
On paper, things get a little easier for Steamboat in Saturday afternoon’s home matchup with 0-11 Mullen, but the team still has memory of how winless Summit battled just a week ago in the Sailors’ win.
“Part of the way I think we will approach getting fired up (for Mullen) is using tonight’s game as motivation,” Trask said. “We had way too many penalties. We definitely didn’t play our best.”
Steamboat plays Mullen at 3 p.m.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll