Steamboat hockey outlasts Dakota Ridge, 5-3 |

Steamboat hockey outlasts Dakota Ridge, 5-3

Fans crowd near the locker room at Howelsen Ice Arena on Saturday to congratulate Steamboat's Jace Worden and the Sailors after they pulled out a 5-3 win against Dakota Ridge. Worden scored a goal late in the third period to give Steamboat a cushion in the back-and-forth, physical contest.

— It wasn't until things seemed as dark as possible — victory too distant to imagine in a must-win game Saturday for Steamboat Springs High School — that the Sailors found their very best hockey.

Steamboat had skated on a power play for just 30 seconds while tied with Dakota Ridge early in the third period when the worst happened: A pair of Sailors drew penalties and were sent to the bench. Dealing with a three-player-to-four disadvantage, Steamboat broke through. Christian Ramirez slipped the puck to Lance Ostrom, who passed it back as Ramirez closed in on the goal. He slammed it home for the most unexpected of go-ahead goals.

The Sailors won when they absolutely had to, scoring when they absolutely had to, for a 5-3 victory.

"You have trust in your goalie and your other two guys out there with you, and you just try to get it done," Ramirez said. "I skated as hard as I could, and Lance made a perfect pass over."

Goals from Ostrom and Matt Hale lifted Steamboat after Dakota Ridge struck first, taking advantage of a power play. The Sailors entered the game confident — maybe too confident, Ostrom wondered later. Dakota Ridge entered the game just 1-15, but the Eagles didn't wilt when confronted Saturday with a deficit.

Dakota Ridge answered in the opening moments of the second period. Steamboat's Ben Wharton scored to give Steamboat a 3-2 lead, but the Eagles bounced back yet again, ensuring the game would go to the third period tied, 3-3.

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Nothing came easy. The game got physical as it dragged on, with players from both sides delivering jarring checks. The

action even went on after the whistle, when the opponents jawed at one another in breaks. There were just two penalties in the first period, but nine in the second and 11 in the third.

That heat left both teams depleted of players in the opening minutes of the third, when Ramirez scored the go-ahead goal. The teams spent the remaining 16 minutes trading scoring opportunities, both goalies standing up to an onslaught of shots. Finally, Steamboat's Jace Worden broke through while cutting toward the goalie's left hand. He scored for the cushion his team needed.

"We did a good job keeping our cool and keeping with the game plan," Ostrom said. "Pretty much every game from now on we have to win. This is do-or-die time for us."

The win keeps Steamboat in eighth place in the Foothills Conference and thus keeps the team in line for the playoffs. There's no room for error, however, and that message rang through the team after Saturday's game.

The Sailors will play in their final home game of the regular season at 6 p.m. Tuesday and then hit the road for their final three contests against Chatfield, Monarch and Ralston Valley.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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