Craig Three minutes into the first period of the Moffat County Bulldog Hockey Club's opening game of a Friday night doubleheader, defensemen Nick Bulla had a Uintah player firmly locked into his radar. The team enforcer checked his opponent with full force, taking his feet out from underneath him and knocking him to the ice.
He stayed down motionless for what seemed like an eternity, staggered and shaken, as his coach came to help him off the ice.
Bulla and Moffat County were setting the stage for what would be in store for the visitors Friday.
Moffat County bullied its way past Uintah, sweeping the visitors, 5-0, and 4-0, to remain unbeaten this year.
The Bulldogs (11-0-1 overall, 5-0 Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League) tallied 18 penalties to the Utes seven, but the number that mattered most was the final score.
"We are doing all right," coach Jim Hall said. "Not losing in 12 games now is definitely something to smile about."
Moffat County's goalie tandem of Bryce Ponikvar and Curtis Ellgen had a lot to smile about Friday: each pitched their third shutout of the season.
In game one, Ponikvar celebrated his birthday by stopping 12 shots to keep his streak of consecutive games without allowing a goal intact. The senior hasn't been scored upon this season.
"It feels really good to get another shutout," Ponikvar said. "Today is my birthday, and that's a great present."
Earlier in the season, after his first shutout, Ponikvar had set a goal of earning 10 shutouts on the season.
That has changed.
"I'm going to have to set a new goal now," he said. "My new goal is to not allow a score all season."
It may be a lofty one, but considering the play of Moffat County's defense, it certainly seems attainable.
"We have a ton of good players on defense," Hall said. "Not just the defensemen, either. All of our players know when to get back and help out."
Five different Bulldogs scored in the first game, a trend Hall said he would like to see more of.
"We can't be successful with just one or two guys scoring for us," he said. "It feels good to see the whole team contribute."
Zach Beckwith, Joel Pomeroy, Spencer Wayman, Colt Criswell and Mike Lefler accounted for the Moffat County tallies in game one.
In game two, Curtis Ellgen stopped 16 shots for his second consecutive shutout, and Criswell scored two more goals tying him for the team lead with captain Scott Smith at 13 apiece.
Criswell has turned into a nightmare for opposing defenses as of late.
His speed and puck handling skills enable him to blow past and around defenders at will.
"When I'm juking guys, I'm not really thinking about them," Criswell said. "I'm just thinking score. If nobody is open for a pass, I'm taking it myself."
Ty DeGuelle and Lefler also scored to account for the final margin of victory in the second game.
"The whole team is playing good" Ellgen said. "We are going to give our best each and every night we step on the ice."
Moffat County resumes league play after six consecutive non-league games. The Bulldogs will travel Friday to compete against Oak Creek.
"League game or nonleague game, we get pumped up to play," Criswell said. "We want to win them all."
John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org