Steamboat hockey grabs huge win vs. Ralston Valley | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat hockey grabs huge win vs. Ralston Valley

Sailors knock off No. 4 team, 4-3, at home Saturday

— They celebrated on the ice. They celebrated in the locker room. And later, running to cars through the parking lot wearing just shorts and sweatshirts, they still were yelling.

The Steamboat Springs High School hockey team won its biggest game of the season Saturday night at Howelsen Ice Arena, the Sailors shocking Ralston Valley, 4-3, thanks to a game-deciding third-period goal from Jarret Walt.

"That," Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff started, barely audible in a hallway filled with cheering parents and standing just outside a locker room filled with still-whooping boys, "was fun."

"It says we're here to compete. Tonight we played with the heart and the desire."

Walt's goal came with 10:42 remaining in the third period, a dagger that No. 4-ranked Ralston Valley had narrowly avoided on several previous Steamboat possessions.

It saved not only the game, in which Steamboat overcame two deficits and a 39-30 shot on goal deficit, but perhaps more. The Sailors entered the contest after back-to-back losses, two of the three defeats they've suffered this year.

"I've scored two other goals," Walt said, recounting his sophomore season, "but not one like that."

He took one shot that deflected off the Ralston Valley goalie's pad, then, with the goalie out of position, hammered in the winner.

"It came right back to me," Walt said. "I saw an open net. It went in bottom left. I was pretty pumped because we'd just won the game, and it was a pretty big game."

Ralston Valley entered the game in position to challenge for the Foothills Conference title. Steamboat, meanwhile, had tumbled in the standings after an upset last week at the hands of Battle Mountain and a disappointing 5-1 loss Friday night to league-leading Regis.

Early, it seemed the Mus­tangs would keep Steamboat's trend going, taking a 1-0 lead. Steamboat's Grant McCannon answered two minutes later, however, and John Wharton plugged in a go-ahead goal before the end of the period.

Ralston Valley charged again, scoring twice in the second, but Wharton responded late in the period to knot things at three.

"This was definitely a big pick-me-up. We really needed a big win," Wharton said. "Our hearts were pumping. It was fun."

Steamboat, 11-3 and third in the conference after the win, returns to action at 4 p.m. Monday at Howelsen Ice Area against Fountain Valley, at 10-3 the second-place team in the Peak Conference.

"It says a lot to respond like this after two tough losses," Ruff said. "Our goal is to maintain that intensity throughout the season. If we do, we'll be that team we think — and our fans think — we are."

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com