Steamboat Springs hockey team puts 7-game win streak on the line as it pushes toward playoffs | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs hockey team puts 7-game win streak on the line as it pushes toward playoffs

Steamboat Springs senior Andrew Mitchell has his shot knocked away in front of the Fort Collins goal when the two teams met in Steamboat Springs back in December. The Sailors will be looking to beat Kent Denver Friday and Standley Lake Saturday with hopes of setting up a showdown with Fort Collins next weekend.

— The red-hot Steamboat Springs High School hockey team will put its seven-game winning streak on the line Friday night as the Sailors face off against the Kent Denver Sun Devils in a Pinnacle league showdown.

The ninth-ranked Sailors, 9-2-1 this season, are currently in second place behind league-leading Fort Collins in the standings. Third-place Kent Denver is looking to close the gap in the final stretch of the season by upsetting Steamboat.

The Sailors will need to win games Friday and Saturday to push a showdown with Fort Collins Feb. 4 on the road.

"As a coach, I don't get caught up in that stuff," Sailors coach Ernie Thiel said of the current league standings and state rankings. "We want to provide an environment where our players don't get caught up in that. We don't ever want to give them the opportunity to become complacent."

However, it's hard not to look ahead.

The Lambkins, 11-1 overall, are currently leading the league with an unblemished 8-0 record. The team is one game ahead of the Sailors, who are 7-1 in league play with seven games remaining in the season. Steamboat's only league loss came in overtime to Fort Collins in December.

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The Steamboat coach has warned his players not too look too far ahead as they head into an important weekend, which includes "senior night" at 6 p.m. Friday. The team will also play at 3 p.m. Saturday against Standley Lake.

Steamboat topped Kent Denver 4-1 the last time the two teams met in early December. But Thiel is expecting the Sun Devils to be better prepared.

"I think we still have two hurdles to clear between now and the end of the season," Thiel said. "Kent Denver is the first. They are super, super, super strong."

The Steamboat coach said his team might have caught Kent Denver a little off guard the first time around, and that's something he doesn't see happening this time. He is expecting a hard-fought, very close game.

"When your team is doing well, it puts them on the radar with other teams," Thiel said. "Teams come in a lot better prepared, and we know that they are going to be gunning for us in this game."

If Steamboat can get past Kent Denver and Standley Lake this weekend, the Sailors will take their push to the playoffs on the road for the next four games. Steamboat will face Dakota Ridge and Fort Collins the first week in February and then continue on the road for games against Chatfield Feb. 10 and Standley Lake Feb. 11.

Steamboat will return home Feb. 17 for the final game of the season.

"I think the Fort Collins game looks like the pivotal game of the season for us," Thiel said. "Our biggest asset it our resolve — we just don't quit. If we can beat Fort Collins, our confidence level will go through the roof as we head into the playoffs."

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