By ELWOOD K. SHELTON
Daily Press writer
Gunnison's outdoor ice rink became the proving ground for the Craig Cougars' character Saturday.
In front of a rowdy crowd of Gunnison Blades fans, the Cougars staged a second period comeback from a first period tie, all without their top three scorers.
Senior forwards Travis Menge, Alton Simones and Trey Gorham, the Cougars three leading scorers, were all side-lined with the flu. The team was left with muddled lines and players out of position, goalies stopping the puck at defensmen, defenmen taking shots on goal from forward and the Cougars still producing on the ice.
From the 1-1 tie of the first period, the Cougars scored three goals in the second (Jordan Anthony at 8:45, Cody DeGuelle at 6:32 and Victor Gonzalez at 4:16) after allowing one early Blades goal in the first two minutes of the period..
Bryce Benten put the icing on the game in the ebbing seconds of the third period, when he struck on an empty goal ending the game 5-2.
"This team just keeps on surprising me," coach Josh Magnuson said. "Going into the game, with the guys we had out, I was just hoping to keep the scores close. But these guys can skate together, even when the game is reduce to pond hockey."
The Cougars didn't fare as well in the second match-up between the two teams, as they went on to lose 2-1. The single Cougars goal came from senior Mike Armstrong, who is playing with an injured shoulder.
The second game loss in Gunnison marks the first loss in the Cougars' season, making their record 19-1.
"It's always tough to lose," senior Jason Phillips said. "We had hoped, of course, to have gone undefeated or at least get through league undefeated. These things happen, but 19-1 doesn't sound as good as 20-0."
Phillips was recognized by the Cougars coaches as one of the team's leaders in the two game series.
The Cougars needed leadership Saturday, in front of what turned out to be a hostile crowd. So hostile measures may be taken to ensure the Gunnison trend does not continue.
According to assistant coach Randy Armstrong, the Gunnison crowd became so hostile that after the second game against the Blades the police had to be called. Armstrong is now in the process of filing a grievance with the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey Association, because of the incident and incidents before this one.
"I talked with the Telluride coach and the Crested Butte coach about the Gunnison crowd, and they both said they've had the same experience," Armstrong said. "Our kids don't want to play down there, it's not that their scared, it's a matter of respect. It's just not a good place when there's fans waiting outside to jump your goalie."
Armstrong did make it explicit the hostility came strictly from the fans, and the Gunnison Blades and their coaches had no part in the matter.
The Cougars also matched up in two non-league games after splitting with Gunnison. The Cougars beat Telluride 7-1 Saturday night. They then went on to beat Crested Butte 5-1, and 7-0 on Sunday.