Moffat County High School juniors, from left, Michael Samuelson, Jarrett Walt and Bubba Ivers are bypassing playing on the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team this season in favor of competing on the Steamboat Springs High School team. Samuelson said the chance to play for a high school team and in a competitive league was the best opportunity for him to improve his game.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Moffat County High School juniors, from left, Michael Samuelson, Jarrett Walt and Bubba Ivers are bypassing playing on the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team this season in favor of competing on the Steamboat Springs High School team. Samuelson said the chance to play for a high school team and in a competitive league was the best opportunity for him to improve his game.

MCHS juniors choose hockey in Steamboat over Moffat County

Season at a glance ...

Stats of the three Moffat County High School juniors playing on the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team this season:

(Name — goals — assists)

• Jarrett Walt — 2 — 2

• Michael Samuelson — 1 — 0

• Bubba Ivers — 0 — 2

Last hockey season, Michael Samuelson, Jarrett Walt and Colin Walt played on both the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team and the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team.

Samuelson said the three players had to go back and forth between the two teams, participate in multiple practices a day and sometimes travel to two different cities in one day for games.

This year, Samuelson, Jarrett and Bubba Ivers, all Moffat County High School juniors, are playing only for Steamboat.

The decision wasn’t easy for him, Samuelson said, but it came down to the better program.

“The Steamboat team is a (Colorado High School Activities Association) sanctioned sport and the competition level is just better,” he said. “We talked to the coach, Jeff Ruff, and they wanted us on the team. They have a better workout facility and they are able to play in a more competitive league than Moffat County.

“It was really difficult to do last year because we had to miss games for both teams.”

Jarrett, who plays center, said the Sailors get a chance to play against some of the top teams on the Front Range, and playing for Steamboat gives him a chance to be seen by recruiters.

“My uncle works for a junior team in Texas, so I want to play down there and go to college after that,” he said. “When you play against the top teams in the state, you get the chance to be seen.”

For Ivers, it came down to bettering himself by playing with more skilled players.

“I wanted to be part of a higher skill level hockey,” he said. “I didn’t want to play (for Moffat County) and then have to keep switching up styles every practice. Steamboat offered more skillful players and had more depth on the team.”

The three players go to Steamboat three or four times a week for practice and then again if they have a game.

The Sailors are 3-4 this season, and are coming off a 5-1 loss Dec. 17 to one of the top teams in the state, Regis Jesuit.

Samuelson, Ivers and Jarrett each said it wasn’t hard to make the transition to playing for a Steamboat team because they all played with their Sailor teammates in the peewee and bantam leagues.

“We grew up playing with these guys,” Samuelson said. “We are just another one of the guys on the team.”

Jarrett, who has played on Steamboat hockey teams since he was in fourth grade, said there is some friendly rivalry jokes, but nothing too serious.

“We joke about beating them in football every now and then,” he said. “But, they do the same to us with different sports and it is just fun.”

Ivers, who plays center and right wing, said he knew the games this season would be more up tempo from his Bulldog playing days.

“In my first game, the players were much quicker and I had to step up,” he said. “Everything is up tempo, even in practice, and each line is competitive with the other lines because we all want to start, so it makes us all play better.”

Each of the MCHS juniors has contributed to the team this season. Jarrett has two goals and two assists, Samuelson has one goal and Ivers has two assists.

The Sailors get back on the ice Jan. 6 against Pine Creek.

Jarrett said the decision to play for Steamboat boiled down to making himself a better player.

“The competition level pushes me to be better and play at a higher level, which is what I want,” he said. “Because it is a high school program, they have great coaches and great depth. All three of us know the fundamentals, so we want a chance to win.”

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