Steamboat hockey hits the ice with home games Friday, Saturday | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat hockey hits the ice with home games Friday, Saturday

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — He's been ready since September, Steamboat Springs High School hockey coach Ernie Thiel said, so the question as to whether or not he and his Sailors are ready for Friday night's season and home opener, a 7:30 p.m. date with Chaparral at Howelsen Ice Arena, is redundant.

"Oh yeah, man," he said Thursday. "I wish we could have started four months ago. We literally started thinking about this season the day after we were knocked out of the playoffs last year."

That playoff run left the team plenty to think about. The Sailors, the 11-seed in the 24-team tournament, easily won its first-round game, then upset a season-long rival in Fort Collins in the second round before bowing out against No. 3 seed Cherry Creek in the state quarterfinals.

A day later, Thiel was plotting out ways to fill holes in the roster, how to rebuild his team’s lines and which underclassmen were capable of stepping in as leaders.

"We've been on top of it," he said.

The Sailors are hoping the end result will be a team that can seize the momentum of the end of last season and not just match it, but build upon it.

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"I'm such a cautiously optimistic coach. I hope they're able to build on what we did last year, then take it a step further," Thiel said. "We have the right personnel and we're deep enough as a team to take it as far as we got if not further, if all goes well."

Steamboat opens with a strong home schedule. It plays again at Howelsen Ice Arena Saturday at 3 p.m. against Battle Mountain. It then plays four more games this month on the road before starting 2018 with eight of its first 10 at home.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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