Chilly, rainy, and snowy weather greeted the Utah Outliers as they headed west on Hwy 40 to the world-class ski town of Steamboat Springs, in northwest Colorado. It was opening weekend for the Steamboat Wranglers, under new ownership, and a new head coach, and also the newest member of the Western States Hockey League. Ryan Dingle took the helm just two months ago, after an illustrious career playing professional hockey in Europe. He also is a product of Steamboat Springs, and is now home with his family to coach.
A rainy Friday night brought out the fans to Howelsen Ice Arena with a packed student section. Every student who came to the rink for opening night received a Wrangler Ragers Game Day T-shirt. They danced and cheered throughout the night for the hometown team.
Game One: Utah 10 -- Steamboat 3
Game one of the three-game series had the Wranglers on the board right after the face-off. Returning Wrangler Jack Rousseau from Ann Arbor, Mich., quickly got a pass from newcomer Canadian Tyrell Bourk, and sunk it in on a shortside snipe, just 15 seconds into the first period.
In the net for game one was Oskar Wahlgren from Sweden for Utah, and Ian Young from Lakewood, Colo. for the Wranglers.
The two teams settled into play until eight minutes into the first when Utah’s Miroslav Hradecky got a fast break and a cross crease pass for a backdoor shot that beat Wrangler goalie Ian Young, over his blocker. Just 33 seconds later, it was Hradecky again, picking up the rebound in front of the net.
The Wranglers answered two and a half minutes later when returning Wrangler Sebi Culver dropped in a quick one off the pass from Seattle’s Nicklas Oda, and Edvin Sollander of Sweden.
The first period wrapped up with two more scores by the Outliers, from Zak Albers and Jakub Lelek. End of the first had Utah up, 4-2.
The second period was a strong showing from the visiting Utah team, with Anthony Masonotti getting on the board, unassisted, and then scoring again off a pass from Albers. Jan Dvorak sank another, making it 7-2 for the Outliers in the second. Then with 1:26 to go, the Wranglers scored on a power play goal, when Zach Dornseifer was in the box for interference. Andrew Demorat of Reston, Va., sank it in with assists from Tyrell Bourk and Tristen Wells.
Demorat lists Virginia as home, but his family now lives in Steamboat Springs. He’s one of six hockey-playing kids in the family. They moved here when his father took a position as head of Routt County Emergency Management, which helps fight the wildfires so prevalent in Northwest Colorado this summer. But dad, “Mo” Demorat, still found time to work the penalty box for the team.
Start of the third had the Outliers up 7-3. Jordan Belley came in at net for the Wranglers. Christian Bundschuh quickly put another one on the board for Utah when Nicklas Oda was in the box for a trip and Avery Albert was serving two for interference. 8-3 Utah. Zach Dornseifer made it 9-3, which is when it got lively in the corner. Avery Albert, the captain of the Wranglers, got into a scuffle right in front of the very loud student section and ended up coming off the ice without his front tooth. Younger brother Adam found it on the ice, and brought it over to the trainer who was helping clean up Avery’s mouth, while trying to handle the blood in the box. Referees conferred on the ice and penalized Avery Albert two minutes for charging. For Utah, Kaeden Meuer had a holding penalty and Jack Papesh was in for two minutes for cross check.
The box kept getting livelier when Jack Rousseau came in for the Wranglers on an elbow penalty. JJ Landers said that he just asked a question, and he got a 10-minute misconduct.
This meant that at one time, there were seven people in the penalty box with players, and then trainer Erin Rosso cleaning up blood on the wall, Mo Demorat trying to open the door to let players out, and owner Chad Hare who had come over to see if Avery needed a dentist since his front tooth was missing.
The box eventually started to clear out. Trevor Wells came in for a cross check. Adam Albert came in with another penalty but was able to update us on his brother’s tooth (he needs a root canal and the trainer has the tooth) so mom could get updated via text. In the meantime, Avery was back out on the ice, minus the tooth. Benji Mickel scored with 2:04 to go, on a five-on-four power play. Final score 10-3, in favor of the Outliers.
Game Two: Utah 5 -- Steamboat 4
Game two on Saturday started again with the Wranglers taking the early lead with a two-on-one pass from Sebi Culver to Sollander, the Swede, for a winning shot just under the goalie’s locker. Starting goalie for Steamboat was Jordan Belley and for the Outliers, Kenton Kim.
Next it was Tristen Wells scoring off the pass from Sollander and Ryan Brown to give Steamboat the two-zip advantage. Utah’s Alex Charin passed behind the net to Jan Dvorak who beat the goalie shortside. Then it was Steamboat again, with Tyrell Bourk taking a pass from Richie Kaye, and accelerating to split the D on a breakaway to score. End of the first had the Wranglers up 3-1.
Utah came on strong in the second, just like the night before. At 14:05, Jakub Lelek got the goalie moving side to side for the one-time shot, slamming it in the backdoor, which was wide open. Assist goes to Zak Albers and Anthony Masanotti. Then at 12:43, Utah had strong puck control with another side-to-side pass. Miroslav Hradecky tied it up 3-3 off the pass from fellow Czech Republic teammate, Jan Dvorak.
The big fight began at 9:53 in the second. Steamboat’s Avery Albert and Utah’s Benji Mickel both got five minutes in the sin bin for fighting. Trevor Schnetzler came in for the Wranglers on a high stick penalty and Utah scored on the power play at 8:21. Kaeden Meuer took the pass from Ryley Bast. The Wranglers then scored on the power play when Dylan Dix was in the box for interference. Avery Albert got the snipe top cheddar with assists from his brother, Adam, and Tyrell Bourk. Tied up 4-4, heading into the third.
The two teams held tough until 6:59 into the third when Kaeden Meuer scored off a pass from Zak Albers for the game winner. Final score, 5-4, for the Outliers.
Game Three: Utah 12 -- Steamboat 2
Game three was mid-day on Sunday, again at Howelsen Ice Arena. Jack Walsh was in net for Utah and Blake Reinert for Steamboat. Utah ate their Wheaties and headed into the match ready for game three, quickly getting three on the board, from Power, Bast, and Friend. The Wranglers got in on there at 8:16, with Tristen Wells scoring from a JJ Landers pass from Kody Goodwin. Utah’s Zach Dornseifer made it 4-1, and then Dvorak added one more at 1:26 to go, to give Utah the 5-1 lead at the end of the first.
The second period had Utah continuing to rack up the points, with Mickel scoring on a power play deflection, top shelf, blocker side, at 18:36, making it 6-1.
It got a little lively with a scuffle on the ice between Steamboat’s Rock Powell, and Utah’s Zak Albers. Powell was given an extra two minutes for being the instigator. Both received five minutes each for fighting, and both were ejected from the game for removing their helmets.
Utah continued strong in the second with scores from Dornseifer, Magni, and Bast to make it 1-9 at the end of the period.
Steamboat had a goalie change in the third, to Chayo Goodwin. Utah kept the points coming in the third with a goal from Dornseifer, Bundschuch and Mickel. Utah led 12-2 when JJ Landers for the Wranglers kept the crowd awake by sinking it in at 1:17. Assist went to Adam Albert, and Jack Rousseau who gave up the point blank shot to Landers on the back door for the easy put-in.
Wrangler Head Coach Ryan Dingle expressed disappointment after the game. “Utah’s a good team. They’re well coached. They were in shape. They were first on the puck. They won puck battles and shot the puck at the right time. They used each other. They played as a team. It’s everything that a coach wants their team to do. We have a lot of work to do. We were content to being within one goal of them Saturday night and we became complacent. We played well two periods this weekend. The good thing is that in hockey you always get a second chance. We’ve got them again next weekend and we’ll have a better showing then, that’s for sure.”
The Wranglers will load up the bus and head west for their first road trip of the season for another three-game series against the Utah Outliers, Oct. 12-14.
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