The Craig Cougar midgets hadn't seen a lot of each other the last couple of weeks, and it showed Sunday morning. In the first game since Christmas break, the Oak Creek Kodiaks put it to the Cougars, 6-1.
"We were completely out-skated in the first game," Cougar coach Jay Oxley said. "It looked like we were sound asleep."
The Cougars had 25 minutes of penalties in the 36-minute game. A majority of those minutes came from players trying to reach with their sticks instead of trying to catch up with their skates -- a sign of fatigue.
The Cougars were winded from not having consistent practice time during the break, but considering that Oak Creek's rink doesn't have ice on it yet, it seemed the Craig team should have been in better shape.
"(Oak Creek) doesn't have ice, but they come here to practice and they get some time in Steamboat," Oxley said. "We scrimmaged them last week, and we only had eight guys to their full team."
Fortunately for the Cougars, two games were scheduled.
"I thought we played much more aggressively the second game," Oxley said. "It looked a lot more like we were evenly matched teams, which I think we are."
Mike Armstrong scored in the first two periods to put the Cougars up 2-1. But late in the second period, Craig made two costly mistakes: With 2 minutes, 21 seconds left, an attempt to ice the puck during a penalty failed, and the puck went to the stick of one of the Kodiaks, who scored to tie the game.
As time was running out in the second, a turnover at center ice by the Cougars resulted in a 3-on-1 break for Oak Creek. The Kodiaks scored on the play with 8 seconds left in the period.
"We skated flat-footed at times," Armstrong said. "The penalties in the second cost us."
The Cougars had a one-man advantage twice in the third period, including for the last 1:58, but were unable to score. The home team out-shot the Kodiaks, 24-12, in the second game but struggled to find the net.
"We stole that second one from you," a Kodiaks coach told Oxley after the game. "You guys outplayed us, but we found a way."
Armstrong, who is one of five returning players from last year's Midget team, said his young team still was coming together.
"We're mostly sophomores right now, and we're still figuring things out," he said. "We'll improve, and, down the road, we'll compete against a team like Oak Creek."
The two losses were the Midgets' first official losses of the season. They are now 6-2-0.
In other Cougar action the squirts showed that they weren't suffering a holiday hangover.
They defeated the Kodiak squirts team, 9-0 and 6-0, between the two midget games.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.