What a difference a couple of hoses, pipes and an oversized refrigerator make. That's the consensus among the coaches of the four Craig Cougar Youth Hockey teams and the records show it.
The Cougars are a combined 26-3-1 with only one loss between the four teams so far this year in the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League.
"The refrigerated ice has made a big difference for our program," said Cougar president Mike Boatright. "The consistency has made it so we can have set practices every week and interest and skill level has grown because of it."
When the Loudy-Simpson Ice Arena wasn't refrigerated a couple of years ago, the ice would melt during warm spells in the winter. Now the teams don't have to worry about playing in puddles, and if records are a means of measuring success, the Cougars are far along the tape measure.
The squirts, 10 and under, are 4-0 so far this season. The growing numbers for the youngest team has been one of the positives that coach Mark Samuelson has seen this season.
"We have a lot of first-year kids out," he said. "Our experienced players are mostly on defense and we've only allowed one goal so far this season."
The squirts are off this weekend and will resume play next weekend against Kremmling.
The pee wees, 11- and 12-year olds, are off to an 8-0 start.
"I've been impressed with how fast this team has picked up new offenses," said coach Terry Pettigrew. "Our defense is our strongest point, but they're learning to move the puck around really well on offense."
The pee wees started out their post-Christmas break season last weekend with 5-0 and 3-0 wins against Kremmling. The undefeated team has averaged six goals a game and is giving up fewer than one score a game. The pee wees next games will be against Vernal after a weekend off.
The 13- and 14-year-old bantams are 12-1-1 this year after taking two games from Durango 9-0 and 6-0 last weekend.
"We had a lot of driving last weekend in the snow," said coach John Pearson. "The dedication it takes for parents to get us to games like that is part of why this program is starting to grow."
The bantams have fought through some injuries this year with their number one goalie and top scorer hurt, but Pearson said they've learned to play with what they've got.
"They're learning to deal with adversity," he said. "That is something that comes in hockey a lot."
Next up for the bantams is a double-header against Vernal this weekend.
The high school aged midget team is 6-0-2 this year with two ties against Vernal. The oldest Cougars travel to Vernal this weekend to see if they can get at least one win against the only opponent they haven't beat. The bantams and midgets are preparing for the Colorado Cup in Colorado Springs next weekend. The tournament is the only time they see competition outside of the RMYHL during the year and is one of the highlights of the year.
"We're trying to get a peak for the Cup," Pearson said. "I think we could have some good results with this team."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org