The Craig Cougars midget hockey team is playing its best hockey of the season, according to coach Darrin Hickey.
They're playing well enough that Hickey all but guaranteed the team would make it to the league championship with a semifinal win against Crested Butte on Saturday.
"We're playing well enough I think we can look past Crested Butte," he said. "The whole team is pumped up after our win last weekend."
The Cougars advanced in their post-season tournament with an overtime win against Glenwood Springs last weekend.
In the win, Mike Armstrong scored the tying goal with 56 seconds left in the third period to send the game into a shootout. In the shootout, Hickey said Cougars' goalie Malcom Hillewaert "stood on his head and won it for us." Trey Gorham and Kevin Oxley scored goals in the shootout to give the team the points for the win.
"They played and won as a team in that game," Hickey said.
"It was the best game of the season so far."
The best game comes after the Cougars finished first in the Northern Division of the league and will face Crested Butte this weekend, the second-place team in the Southern Division. Hickey's team hasn't faced its upcoming opponent this season, yet the coach's focus was on Sunday's game.
"If we win Saturday, we will be in the championship against probably Gunnison," Hickey said.
"They've beat us twice this season, but if we play 110 percent, we can beat them."
Another incentive for the Cougars if they face Gunnison is playing for their captain, Cody DeGuelle, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury when they met Gunnison the first time.
While many of the Cougars thought they had home ice this weekend for their first game, the schedule has them playing at Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs.
"I'm not sure if we ever had a home game scheduled but the players say the original schedule had us for home ice," Hickey said. "The league didn't want to give us the home advantage."
The game against Crested Butte is at 9 a.m. Saturday and the third- and fourth-place and championship games are Sunday morning in Steamboat.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.