Steamboat Springs A pair of wins during the weekend helped catapult the Steamboat Wranglers back into the battle for second place in their first year playing in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.
Now the Wranglers will tangle this weekend with the top team in the league to attempt to solidify those gains.
“They’ve got an older team and an established team and program, so this will be a good test for us,” Wranglers coach and general manager Tony Mick said Tuesday. “We’re an expansion team, so to be where we are right now, I’m very excited. The best is yet to come for our players.”
Steamboat, 10-12-1, built its momentum on home ice, beating the Colorado Rampage 3-2 Friday night, then 7-1 on Saturday. Next up is a road trip to play Friday and Saturday against the league-leading Pikes Peak Miners in Colorado Springs.
The Miners, 22-2, have made a mountain few league teams have been able to climb this season. They won their first 18 games of the season and have scored 40 more goals than any other league team.
Steamboat has offered a few close contests, however. Pikes Peak has beaten Steamboat five times this season. Two were overtime games, and two more were decided by just one goal.
It’ll take a little more hockey like the team played last weekend to pull off a win against the Miners.
Steamboat was good enough Friday against the Rampage, getting goals from Jayden Dale and Easton Jones to build a 2-0 lead. A second-period power play score from Jarrett Sturtz helped add some cushion and provide relief in a different way. The team has struggled on the power play this season, converting 17.6 percent for goals.
Things weren’t so close Saturday. The Wranglers got a pair of goals from Kameron Fink, then one each from Ethaen Barrica, Zach Dym, Sean Moleschi, Jarrett Sturtz and Collyn Sampsell.
The seven-goal offensive outburst was the team’s largest in a month.
“The biggest thing is right now we have the bodies, a full 23-man roster,” Mick said. “We’re still getting phone calls from guys who want to play in Steamboat.”
Steamboat plays at 7:45 p.m. Friday in Colorado Springs, then again at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Two more road games in Lakewood follow Jan. 13 and 14 before the team returns home Jan. 20 and 21 for another homestand against the Rampage.
Steamboat is currently in third place with 25 points, just one point behind second-place Aspen. Pikes Peak leads the pack with 44.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9