Steamboat hockey hires familiar coach to lead Sailors

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— There will be a changing of the guard in Steamboat Springs High School hockey this winter, but there certainly won’t be much of a shift in the way things look on the Sailors’ bench.

Brent Tollar, the team's 2013-14 coach, stepped down from his positions as director of the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association and head coach of the high school program to explore other coaching opportunities in the Denver area.

Late last week, Tollar’s assistant coach and goalies coordinator Chris Campanelli was hired to take over as head high school hockey coach, a move Steamboat Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe said was simply the best choice from a solid candidate pool.

“I was pretty excited,” Campanelli said. “When I put my application in, I thought it was a throw-your-name-in-the-hat situation. My first suspicion was there were coaches with more experience, but I come from a pretty strong hockey background. I’m looking forward to the challenges.”

Being head coach will be a new endeavor for Campanelli — in any sport or any level.

But things won’t be much different at all for the program, aside from Tollar’s absence. Campanelli’s assistants will be Kerry Shea and Matt Workman, both coaches under Tollar during his brief tenure.

The bench may look 75 percent the same next season, but the roster has some glaring holes and big shoes to fill in 2014-15.

Ten seniors are graduating out of the program, including its three captains and starting goalie.

But in Campanelli’s favor, the new coach says, is what Tollar built: a strong high school program that has forged a flourishing relationship with the youth leagues, creating a very uniform system from the bottom up.

“What was unique with Tollar was when he was the youth director, he started building a program at each level, from mites to squirts to pee wees to bantams,” Campanelli said. “He started building the necessary tools. By high school they had the skill development that we didn’t really need to teach.”

And the new coach anticipates that the leading candidates to replace Tollar in directing at the youth level are well suited to keep that relationship going.

Even before being appointed the new Sailors hockey coach, Campanelli said he was busy holding spring workouts with next season's potential varsity team members, and even conducted strength assessment tests on May 28, two days prior to being hired.

Getting players prepped for the winter — which will include summer training, too — is one thing, but the batteries that make the program go, Campanelli insists, are his assistants, Shea and Workman.

“Our motto is ‘one’ as a coach,” Campanelli said. “We are all one. We all make decisions. Mine just says head coach on paper. Without them, it doesn’t get done.”

He will take over a Sailors program that has had fair success, advancing to the state playoffs this year after missing out in 2012-13. Steamboat finished the year with a 10-7-1 record.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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