Regis Jesuit skates past Steamboat hockey to 5-1 win | SteamboatToday.com

Regis Jesuit skates past Steamboat hockey to 5-1 win

Luke Graham
Steamboat Springs High School's Ben Wharton gets knocked over while trying to deflect a puck in front of the net Saturday. Steamboat lost to Regis Jesuit, 5-1.Luke Graham

— The gap between the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team and the elite of the state has been defined.

Saturday's 5-1 loss to Regis Jesuit — arguably the best team in the state — showed just how far Steamboat has to go to compete with the best.

There were good moments for the Sailors, but there were more moments when Steamboat looked inexperienced and tense.

"We know this is the level we have to compete at to end up where we want to end up," Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. "We have to use this as a learning situation. That's the level of play that we need to aspire to."

The Raiders (6-0) came every bit as advertised and through the pre-holiday part of the schedule have to be considered a heavy favorite to again make the Final Four and win a state title.

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Regis has outscored its opponents 32-6 this year and simply toyed with a young Steamboat (3-4) team Saturday.

The Raiders got the scoring going early when Tanner Scales and Ryan Wagner scored goals in the first period less than two minutes apart.

With a 2-0 lead, Regis didn't have to take chances. The Raiders continued to dominate the neutral zone and used a physical defense to control anything in front of goaltender Sam Harden.

For a moment, however, Steamboat got right back into it. The Sailors' Matt Hale picked up a puck just inside the right circle and released a wrist shot over Harden's stick-side shoulder to cut the lead to 2-1.

Steamboat had several other chances that were thwarted.

With 2 minutes, 56 seconds left in the second period, Regis' Nathan Haas scored on the power play, and Conner Brennan scored a wraparound goal a minute later to go into the final period with a 4-1 lead.

"It's really tough to have the name Regis and it be our last game before break," Steamboat senior John Wharton said. "There was probably a level of intimidation. We came out flat, but towards the end of the third, we proved to ourselves that we can play with them."

The third period saw Steamboat play better, but it was nothing more than a formality. Regis continued to push Steamboat wide in the zone, and the Sailors couldn't get anything going as the Raiders' Brian Burlage added a late goal for the end result.

"We knew we had to play well, and for moments, we did play well," said Ruff, whose team was outshot, 35-25. "They're very skilled. I mean, a team like this will take advantage of your mistakes."

Steamboat next plays at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 6 against Pine Creek at home.

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

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