Sizing up

Team may be small, but they play big

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With the average size of the Bulldog hockey player at 5 feet 8 inches and 175 pounds, coach Darin Hickey foresees his team being outsized by 6-8 inches.

That can be a lot in a game.

Most hockey teams have an intimidating line of defenders and forwards who are quick; however, Hickey sees his group of talented players who are not gifted with size. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Today it gives us a little advantage," Hickey said. "In years past, we used to try and be a more physical team and win that way. We scored goals when we needed to. Now we can play both ends of the sheet and, with the new rules they are implementing, I think it's to our advantage, and our smaller players will actually gain 6-8 inches."

The Bulldogs' depth and talent is evident, and that talent is being developed early.

"In the last five years, we've seen the bantams come up with more talent than we used to have to work with," Hickey said. "And a lot of that is thanks to the coaching staff from squirts all the way up. They are feeding this team with a lot better product."

Hickey is confident that in any situation he can throw a player on the ice and not worry.

"We don't have to look and say, 'he's a first-year player. He can't be out there at this time.'"

Hickey thinks confidence in young players will help carry a team that took a hard hit due to graduation.

"With a full team and a young team, it's just giving 100-percent effort," Hickey said. "The team has the talent, if we can get it together. It's still early, and I'm thinking by January we should all gel and really have a good performance out there."

The Bulldogs bring back nine players who saw the ice last season, and Hickey is excited because players put in time during the off season to develop.

"I think (Bo) Boatright's always given it his best," Hickey said. "And Mark Oxley has really picked up in the last year. As for the rest of the team, nobody is below average as far as effort, and they're all trying their hardest. It's going to be a good year."

Boatright returns as the Bulldogs' leading scorer with 23 goals and 11 assists last season, totaling 34 points. Junior Scott Smith follows closely with 21 goals.

One problem for the Bulldogs will be splitting ice time among the three goalies who are on the roster.

"Bryce Ponikvar is definitely our No. 1. I was actually excited to see that he's not leaving this year," Hickey said. "I thought he was a senior and that he was going to be gone."

Hickey said when 'crunch time' comes around, Ponikvar will get the nod, but that all three goalies will have a chance to see time in the net.

The Bulldogs were supposed to begin the season Nov. 17 with games against Steamboat Springs, but because of a conflict, the contest was cancelled. The next action for the varsity squad is Saturday Dec. 9. The junior varsity team plays today in Eagle at the Turkey Bowl Tournament.

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