Going into the Frozen Four championships during the weekend, The Moffat County Bulldogs Club Hockey team had some tough competition to face.
Weather, it seems, may have been the toughest opponent at the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League Championship in Eagle.
The Bulldogs' game times were rescheduled due to bad ice conditions at the Eagle County Ice Rink, forcing Moffat County to play three games in six and a half hours.
Still, the Bulldogs managed a third-place finish, winning their first game against Steamboat, 3-1, before falling to the Gunnison Blades, 6-3. Steamboat prevailed, 5-2, in a rematch against Moffat County, eliminating the Bulldogs from the double elimination tournament.
"Our third-place finish in this league with nine very close and competitive teams, (and) with only two seniors, we feel this year was very, very successful," coach Jay Oxley said.
Victory against Steamboat Springs
The Bulldogs started out fast and hard in their first game against Steamboat, with Moffat County scoring the first three goals. The first goal was on a short-handed, unassisted goal by Scott Smith in the first period.
Steamboat received a double minor penalty and another minor roughing penalty to put the Bulldogs on a five-on-three power play, which they took advantage of. Defenseman Joel Pomeroy scored first with an assist from Cory Wojtkeiwicz. Then, less than 2 minutes later, Mike Lefler tipped a slap shot from Pomeroy in to put the Bulldogs up, 3-0.
Steamboat's John Worden scored late in the second with an assist from Austin Anderson. But it was too little to late, as the Bulldogs won, 3-1.
Moffat County goalie Bryce Ponikvar faced 20 shots on goal while the Bulldogs put 31 shots up against Steamboat.
Cut by the Blades
Next up for the Bulldogs were the No. 1-seeded Gunnison Blades.
The Bulldogs were one of two teams to beat the Blades during the regular season.
"The one team we are most concerned about in this tournament is the Moffat County Bulldogs. The two games we played against them in the regular season at our rink were the two hardest fought games we had," Blades head coach Josh Townsend said. "We need to come out hard and score first."
The Blade players apparentley listened as Gunnison's Anthony Lodato scored early in the first with an assist from Scott Schumacher.
Lodato scored again on a power play later in the first to put the Blades up, 2-0.
But late in the first, Bulldogs captain Bo Boatright had an unassisted even-strength goal to put the Bulldogs within one.
Early in the second period, Blades' Cory Brown scored a power play goal, but the Bulldogs came right back with a power play goal from Scott Smith to again put pressure on the Blades.
"Gunnison has three great scoring lines, and when it comes to the third period that is when your third line really helps," Oxley said.
And that it did for the Blades. Gunnison scored three goals in the third for a 6-3 win.
"There is no doubt about it, they are a good team and it shows," Bulldogs assistant coach Art Smith said.
Loss to Steamboat
Immediately after the Gun-
nison game, a tired Bulldogs team had a rematch against rival Steamboat.
"It's too bad our schedule ended up like this. We should have played our first game in the Yampa Valley with Steamboat Friday night, then the ice situation in Eagle would not have us play three games in such a short time," Oxley said.
Steamboat scored late in the first with a wrist shot from Austin Anderson.
But the Bulldogs started the second period well. With less than a minute into the second, Bulldogs Colt Criswell scored with an assist from Smith and Cole Dubois to tie the game.
At 6:32, Steamboat's John Worden scored to put Steamboat up by one.
"By the third period our boys were exhausted," Oxley said.
Steamboat scored three goals in the third while the Bulldogs added one more from Smith with an assist from Thane Anderson.
The Bulldogs put 27 shots on goal while Steamboat had 31 shots against Bulldogs goalie Spencer Wayman.
"Steamboat has improved greatly this year and we wish them the best of luck against Gunnison," Boatright said.
The Championship game was played Sunday with Gunnison leading the entire game and winning, 5-2.
"The northern division of the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League was represented very well with all the teams making the playoffs and three of the top four teams coming from the north," Bulldogs team manager Mike Boatright said. "Gunnison came in first but Steamboat, Moffat County, and Oak Creek ended up second, third and fourth respectively. It was a great year."