With nearly half of their regular season complete the Steamboat Wranglers (15-4-0-0) are looking down at the other teams of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, currently 12 points in front of second place Pikes Peak Miners. With the Miners idle over the weekend Steamboat extended their lead in the standings with a two game sweep of host Colorado Rampage.
Traveling to Monument has been no easy task so far this season for opponents of the Rampage who were 3-2-1 at home coming in. The Wranglers found themselves trailing early on Friday night after a power play goal scored by Braden Cooper at 7:25. That is the way the opening period would end.
Steamboat battled back in the second and were rewarded with goals from Nico Hemming and Grant Longtin to take a 2-1 advantage. The final 25 minutes of the game though would be a showcase of goaltenders with Blue Hildebrand stopping 27 of 28 shots for the Wranglers to earn the victory. Noah Vanderback made 28 saves in a losing effort.
The teams met again the following afternoon with the host again scoring first on a Brenden Polaski tally at 14:58 of the first. Eric Matheson would make it 2-0 Rampage at 11:01 of the second before the Wranglers would start a climb back into the game.
Nevada White scored just :25 after the Matheson goal to get Steamboat back in the game. Then a power play snipe by Jack Coon late in the second frame tied it at 2-2.
With momentum completely swung the Wranglers didn't take long to take a lead. Andrew DeMorat scored what would be the game winner 1:36 into the final frame. Then a pair of goals (Longtin and White) scored just :21 apart sealed it for the visitors.
Goalie Michael Bachofner Binder would earn his second victory in as many starts making 25 saves for Steamboat, winners of their last 11 games. With a bye week in front of them the Wranglers can now watch their rivals before returning to action against the Colorado Thunderbirds on December 15-16.
Next week in the RMJHL features just one three-game set with Pikes Peak playing host to the Breckenridge Bolts.
Pikes Peak Miners (9-5-0-0) and Steamboat Wranglers (13-4-0-0) gave the RMJHL teams notice last weekend, each sweeping a two-game set at home over their opponent. Both extended their points total with the idle Colorado Rampage (5-6-1-0) now seven points back of second place Pikes Peak.
Coming off a three-game losing streak at the hands of the Wranglers, Pikes Peak welcomed the Colorado Thunderbirds to Sertich Ice Center. The Miners may have been still thinking about that losing streak as the Thunderbirds led in the Friday game 2-1 after one and 5-3 at second intermission. Matthew Thieleman scored twice to give the visitors confidence heading into the final frame.
In the third period it would be all Pikes Peak though, with Niclas Karup scoring just :58 in to make the score 5-4. Power play goals by <span class="playerLink">Ian Zaleski, Brett Armstrong and Taylor Gatto (his hat trick) were enough to complete the 7-5 comeback victory.</span>
In the second matchup Pikes Peak continued their scoring taking a 4-0 advantage before Joseph Losasso scored the lone T-birds goal late in the second period. Before the game ended Hawkins, Gatto and Lars Culver would score for the Miners to make the final score 7-1.
The red-hot Wranglers welcomed Breckenridge Bolts to Howelsen Ice Arena for the second time this season. By the end of Saturday night Steamboat had four points and extended their win-streak to nine games.
Breckenridge have proved to be a tough opponent in almost every game so far in this first season of competition and the Bolts played that way again. Coming off a bye weekend Breck would find themselves down 4-0 after 26 minutes of play before fighting back. Tanner Caldarola and Gavyn Entzminger would score in a :48 span to cut the deficit in half at the midway point of the game.
A power play tally by Quinny Baker gave Steamboat a 5-2 lead, but the Bolts would not quit scoring twice to make it 5-4 with eight minutes to play. An equalizer couldn't be found this night and the Wranglers, who had a 46-16 shot advantage, added a late goal to make the final 6-4.
The next night played out very similar with Steamboat taking a 3-0 lead on goals from <span class="playerLink">Donny Nordstrom, Sebi Culver and Nicklas Oda. Just like the previous night Entzminger and Caldarola would cut that lead to 3-2 by the midway point of the game.</span>
A comeback wasn't in the works though with Nevada White and Braeden Gillmore scoring in the third to secure the 5-2 victory. Michael Bachofner Binder, who made his first start of the season for Steamboat, stopped 22 of 24 shots while Douglas Wakelyn was far more busy making 40 saves.
It was a rematch of the 2017 RMJHL Finals and the Steamboat Wranglers had revenge on their minds. With a three game series hosted by the defending champion Pikes Peak Miners the Wranglers did get some payback as well as sending a message to the rest of the league - Steamboat is a contender.
Steamboat came ready to go from the drop of the puck in game one pounding Miners goaltender Joseph Chekan with 23 shots in the opening period, scoring twice. Play evened out much of the final 40 minutes with the teams exchanging goals in the second period to lead 3-2. An empty net goal scored by Andrew DeMorat, his second tally of the night, sealed the victory.
The following night saw the home team come out with purpose, scoring twice in the opening frame. The Wranglers would not be denied on this night outshooting Pikes Peak 40-13 in the final two frames. Jarrett Sturtz, Joel Rothman and Hunter Howe each scored as Steamboat would comeback to win 3-2.
Game three saw a worn-out and shorthanded Miners (7-5-0-0) team put up a fight, but Steamboat (11-4-0-0) scored three times in the opening period on their way to a 5-3 victory. Shawn Catudal scored twice for the winners who would put a total of 53 shots on net.