'The team we want to beat the most'

Moffat County Bulldogs hockey faces rival Steamboat Sailors on Thursday night

Bryce Ponikvar began playing hockey when he was "really little."

However, he quit because he didn't enjoy it.

About five years ago, Ponikvar gave hockey another chance, this time trying his hand at goalie.

"I really liked it a lot, so I kept with it and then I got good at it," said Ponikvar, a Moffat County High School junior. "I've just kept playing because it's really fun."

For Moffat County Bulldog coach Darin Hickey, Ponikvar's decision to give hockey another chance has been good news.

"If needed to, he can keep us in any game, anytime," he said.

It was one reason the coach cited his goalie as a player to watch as the Bulldogs try to shake off the holiday rust when they take on Steamboat at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Moffat County Ice Arena.

Ponikvar will be between the pipes against the team he admits is the Bulldogs' biggest rival.

"Oh yeah," he said. "That is always the team we want to beat the most."

The coach agreed.

"We're definitely looking for a win against Steamboat, no matter what it takes there," Hickey said. "And we're looking to get the team speed back and get the rust out. We've been practicing and it's been going fairly well, so hopefully they drop the puck and it just comes back to playing like game time (before the break).

"Coming off the Christmas break, I'm just looking for a good effort from all of the kids."

The Bulldogs played Steam-boat in an exhibition game, but that was before Steamboat made cuts for the high school team.

"They've got a good team and good coaching," Hickey said. "They play a physical game and fast. I think we're pretty equally matched."

Hickey said the key to winning is "to stay on top of them. Don't let down and let them deep into the zone without back checking."

With Christmas break over, Hickey also is looking to "get our lines developed and finding out what kids click with other kids."

Currently, Hickey has Bo Boatright, Mike Lefler and Scott Smith penciled into the first line; Cole Dubois, Colt Criswell and Cory Wojtkiewicz on the second line; and James Reiman, Joel Pomeroy and Tim Willis on the third line.

"I think we've got three good lines out there now that are starting to gel," the coach said, "and we're going to have them play together as much as possible."

After hosting Steamboat, the Bulldogs travel to Kremling for a doubleheader Sunday. Game times are at 9 and 11:30 a.m.

Jerry Raehal can be reached at 970-824-7031, ext. 204 or at jraehal@craigdailypress.com

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