Steamboat win keeps hockey team in the playoff mix |

Steamboat win keeps hockey team in the playoff mix

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs High School senior John Wharton fights for the puck during the second period of Tuesday night’s game against Columbine. Steamboat won, 8-0.

Steamboat Springs High School senior John Wharton fights for the puck during the second period of Tuesday night's game against Columbine. Steamboat won, 8-0.
Matt Stensland

— On senior night at Howelsen Ice Arena, the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team left little doubt about its skill with an 8-0 win against Columbine. 

But now is where it gets good. 

The win puts Steamboat tied for seventh place in the Foothills Conference, with the top eight teams making the playoffs. 

Steamboat, 6-0-1 in its past seven games and undefeated since Jan. 7, now enters the most telling part of its season. 

The team virtually had to win every game for the rest of the season to make the playoffs after a Jan. 7 loss to Summit.

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The team has three games left, all providing intrigue for a Sailors team seemingly playing its best hockey of the year at exactly the right time. 

"We're more prepared for the playoffs because we've been playing in playoff mode since after break, if you think about," senior John Wharton said. "We've been burying teams, and that's what we need to do to get in."

It starts at 2 p.m. Friday at Chatfield and continues at 4:45 p.m. Saturday at Monarch. Chatfield and Steamboat are tied for the seventh-place spot, with Monarch sitting in fifth. 

Steamboat closes the season Feb. 18 at Ralston Valley, currently second in the Foothills Conference. 

Should Steamboat (10-5-1 overall, 5-4-1 in conference play) win all three, it's in with a decent seed. Two wins probably will do it, while one or none likely will leave the Sailors home. 

"This is a much different team," Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. "You can see the growth in this team from the beginning of the season to now. I think our younger guys are starting to understand the high school game."

Most important has been the development of sophomore Matt Hale. Since Hale has been moved to the top line with John Wharton and Lance Ostrom, the combination has become one of best in the state. 

On Tuesday, that certainly continued. 

Hale tossed in a hat trick, and Ostrom had another Ostrom-like night. The senior had a goal to go along with five assists Tuesday. Ben Wharton also had a pair of goals, and Michael Samuelson and Jarret Walt added late goals. 

"It was hard to believe it at the first part after seeing all the other seniors go through it," said Ostrom, who celebrated senior night with John Wharton and Jace Worden. "I wanted to come out and play well and just tried to treat it like another game."

Steamboat players acknowledged what is at stake starting Friday. 

"We know if we lose two," Ostrom said, "it's probably done."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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