It's still early enough in the season that the new players on the Craig Cougar midget hockey team have to use tape for their numbers on their jerseys. Yet in a 7-1 win in the home opener against the Steamboat Springs Braves, the midgets, at times, looked like they had been playing together for a couple of months.
"We didn't play our best sometimes," said captain Kevin Oxley. "But while this is a league game, it is sort of like a scrimmage for us."
The Braves are more or less a junior varsity team from Steamboat because the best players are on a high school sponsored team.
"We scrimmaged (the high school team) a couple of weeks ago and they beat us pretty bad," Oxley said. "We had just started playing and we were without some of our guys. We play them again in a couple of weeks and we'll see where we're at then."
While the Braves didn't have enough players for two full lines, Cougars coach Darin Hickey said he was impressed with his opponent's fight.
"They were undermanned but they never backed down," he said. "Their effort was impressive."
The Braves kept it somewhat close as it was 2-1 in the second period after the Braves scored a shorthanded goal with 1:51 remaining.
Less than 30 seconds later, Nick Goodenow put a loose puck in front of the goal into the net. Jacob Pearson, who is on the same line as Goodenow, had already scored the first two goals for the Cougars.
"We're still trying to get our lines figured out this early," Hickey said. "But I saw some good things with a couple of lines tonight."
After the second period, Hickey warned his team that it was going to get more physical with the Braves trailing in the final period.
Both teams doubled their time with players in the penalty box in the final period, and it was to the Cougar's advantage. The Braves didn't have a shot on goal in the period and the boys in Avalanche-esque jerseys thrived.
The Cougars scored four goals in the final period with the final score a shot from Brandon Seick at the blue line that went through the five-hole of the Brave's goalie.
"Our guys didn't retaliate to their physical play in the third period," Hickey said. "I was proud of the way they responded in that final period."
Other scorers for the Cougars in the third period were Goodenow, Tyler Menge and Bryan Wojtkiewicz.
The Cougars will travel to play the same Braves team Saturday in Steamboat Springs.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org