Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Wranglers got every possible second they could out of their inaugural season of hockey — 40 games in the regular season, then two post-season series, each played to the maximum three possible games.
All that hockey — 2,760 minutes, 191 goals — and it came down to the final minute and one goal.
The Pikes Peak Miners scored with 3 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the third period, then held off the Wranglers' desperate attempts to tie, holding on to win the game, 6-5, the series, 2-1, and the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League championship.
“We made one more mistake than they did,” Steamboat Wranglers coach Troy Mick said. “That won the series. It was a great series, but we needed a little more to finish and just had one more mistake.”
It was a weekend of rallying for the Wranglers, and only their final one came up short.
The Miners won the first game handily 9-4 Friday, but Steamboat got a hat trick from Kameron Fink on Saturday en route to a 5-1 win to even the best-of-three series.
Pikes Peak then built nearly decisive leads twice Sunday. It went up 3-0 to open the game before Cameron Knowlton scored once and Donny Nordstrom twice, his second strike tying the game with 1:22 remaining in the second period.
The Miners then surged again, scoring the first two goals of the third period. Knowlton scored one more, however, and Easton Jones scored on a powerplay with 8:34 remaining in the season to tie things up one more time, 5-5.
Pike Peak’s Kole Mudra put away the winner, and finally, it was too much for Steamboat to answer.
“It was just a matter of mistakes,” Mick said. “We had a lot of shots. We were that close, yet still so far away at times.”
The Wranglers, who defeated the defending league champion Aspen Leafs 2-1 in the semifinals, ended the season with a 29-17 record.
“I feel nothing now but positive, positive, positive,” Mick said. “Everyone was thinking we weren’t even going to make the playoffs as an expansion team, but there we were, one goal away from the championship. There was a lot of pride in that dressing room, and this is definitely a team the city of Steamboat Springs can be proud of.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9