No breaks for the Sailors; it’s playoff time | SteamboatToday.com

No breaks for the Sailors; it’s playoff time

Steamboat Springs senior Grant McNamara skates toward goal after taking a pass from a teammate during a drill Monday afternoon at the Howelsen Hill Ice Arena. The members of the Steamboat Springs boys ice hockey team will spend this "Blues Break" preparing for a playoff game Friday night with the chance to advance to the Frozen Four for the second straight year with a win on Saturday in Windsor.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It might be "Blues Break" at the Steamboat Springs High School this week, but the boys basketball and hockey teams are hoping that it is anything but blue.

"That's the negative thing about ‘Blues Break’ is that the kids are out of town," Sailors basketball coach Michael Vandahl said. "But we know there are still a lot of people in the community. We had a packed gym last year, at about this same time, and we are hoping to get as many people in the gym as possible this time around."

The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team (14-9) will take on Skyline (10-13) at 6 p.m. Wednesday inside the Kelly Meek Gymnasium at Steamboat Springs High School.

Steamboat finished the season ranked 21 in the RPI rankings, which are used to seed the tournament. Skyline is the No. 44 seed. The winner of the playoff game will advance to face No. 12-seeded Windsor on Saturday in the next round of the tournament.

VanDahl said despite Skyline’s record and seeding in the tournament, he is expecting a very competitive game.

"I think they beat one of the top teams in the state, Longmont, just recently. They are surging," the Steamboat Springs coach said. "This is playoff basketball, and it's going to come down to the final possession. We will have to play good defense and good offense, and that's what makes it fun."

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Hockey team travels to Fort Collins with eye on Frozen Four

The Sailors boys hockey team, seeded fifth in this year's state championship bracket, got a first round bye and is looking ahead to a Friday game at the NoCo Ice Center in Windsor where Steamboat will open the quest for its second straight trip to the Frozen Four.

Steamboat will face the winner of No. 12 Dakota Ridge and No. 21 Battle Mountain, who will tangle in Littleton Tuesday night.

"We are capable of just about anything," Sailors coach Ernie Thiel said. "It's going to be the challenge this week. Not knowing who we are going to play on Friday night is going to be difficult."

The Sailors did face Battle Mountain earlier this season, winning 7-4 at Howelsen Ice Arena but has not faced any of the other teams in their bracket with the exception of Fort Collins.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who your opponent is," Thiel said. "You have to be able to play your game to the best of your ability. You can't shoot yourself in the foot."

If Steamboat and Fort Collins can avoid the upset Friday night, the two teams will meet in the quarterfinals for the second time in two years and the third time this season.

Steamboat tied Fort Collins and lost earlier this season. But a year ago, Steamboat upset Fort Collins in the state playoff game, 3-2.

Soroco girls looking to punch ticket for state finals

When the Soroco Rams take the court Wednesday night, they will be very aware of what will be at stake.

If the Rams, 15-4 overall and 10-1 in league play this season, win the game, they will earn a shot at the state playoffs. As the No. 2-seeded team in the district playoffs, Soroco will need to fend off the winner of the West Grand-Caprock Academy game, which was being played Monday night.

"We are looking forward to Wednesday night," head coach David Bruner said Monday. "If we can take care of that one, then we have another week, at least, of basketball."

Bruner said it doesn't matter where the team finishes in the final two rounds of the tournament. A win on Wednesday means the Rams, who finished in a three-way tie for the league title with Meeker and Rangely, will be seeded into the state playoffs and have a chance at a state title.

The Rams are currently seeded No. 12 in the state among 2A schools. The team was seeded second in this week's district tournament after coming out on the losing side of a tie-breaker.

The Oak Creek team has been without one of its top players, Chloe Veilleux, for the past five games because of an ankle injury. Bruner said he is hoping to get her back this week,

The Hayden Tigers girls team was also hoping to keep its state hopes alive during a play-in game Monday evening against Plateau Valley.

The winner of that game was slated to play top-seeded Meeker in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games will all be played at De Beque High School near Grand Junction.

The Soroco and Hayden boys basketball teams were also slated to compete in the play-in games for the district tournament on Monday night.

Soroco, seeded No. 9, traveled to play No. 8 Vail Mountain, and No.11 Hayden traveled to face No. 6 Plateau Valley. 

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.