Heading into Friday's 7 p.m. home game against a powerful Crested Butte team, the Moffat County Bulldog Club hockey team is looking to keep its hot play from the weekend.
Taking on the Grand County Kremmling Cattle Kings in Kremmling on Sunday, the temperature was -2 F.
Why does this matter? It is an outdoor arena.
"It makes you appreciate the many past volunteers and county workers who helped get our rink in Moffat County refrigerated and in a nice building" coach Jay Oxley said.
Skating outdoors, the Bulldogs one the first game of the doubleheader against the Kings, 5-4, and tied the second, 4-4.
In the first game, skating in the subzero temperature, the Bulldogs put the heat on early. Less than 3 minutes into the game, center Scott Smith received a pass around the boards from defenseman Zach Beckwith and from behind the goal line scored a shot that ricocheted off of Kremmling's goalie Raymond Gamblin and into the net.
Kremmling's Jake Motz scored with 9 seconds left in the first period to tie the game. But the Bulldogs and Smith started to heat up even more, with winger John Strahan and defenseman Zach Beckwith working hard behind the Kremmling goal, they pushed the puck out in front of the goal where Smith was open and scored at 11:57 in the second period.
Kremmling came back and scored at 11:15 to once again tie the game at 2-2. Kremmling received a minor penalty that put the Bulldogs on a power play and with a pass from center Bo Boatright, Smith put the finishing touch on his hat trick when he put the puck in the top left hand corner of Kremmling's goal.
With the battle going on in the Bulldogs' defensive zone, the puck ricocheted off a skate and found its way to open ice where Bulldog's defenseman Ian Forgay picked it up and raced down the ice on a break away, scoring with 5:34 in the second period. The Bulldogs were up 4-2.
At 4:48 in the second, Jake Motz, of Kremmling, scored again. Down one entering the third, Kremmling came out hard and fast trying to tie the game. It paid off.
At 8:18, Kremmling's Robert Menhennett scored from an assist from Kraig Potts. With the score tied, both coaches told their players to stay out of the penalty box so not to let the other team get a power play. With time running out and the puck in the Bulldogs' defensive zone, Boatright poke-checked the puck away from a Kremmling defenseman and had an unassisted game-winning goal on a break away. Bulldog's goalie Spencer Wayman "had a great game and made some great saves," said assistant coach Art Smith. Wayman turned away 23 of 27 shots he faced while the Bulldogs had 25 shots on goal. The final score was 5-4. The Bulldogs were led by Smith's three goals, Boatright had one goal and one assist, Forgay netted one goal, Beckwith had two assists, and Strahan had one assist.
The second game
Although the Bulldogs were hot in the first game, they needed time to warm up in the second.
With 55 seconds off the clock from the beginning of the game, Kremmling's Conway Farrell scored with an assist from Tim Gamblin. Just 1:17 later, Kremmling's Jake Motz scored on a power play to put the Cattle Kings up 2-0.
The Bulldogs started to heat up as well. With a large "scrum" in front of the net Boatright found the puck and flipped it over the shoulder of Kremmling's goalie Raymond Gamblin to get the Bulldogs on the board.
At 1:29 left in the first period, Bulldog winger Cole Dubois -- playing his position perfectly -- was right in front of the Kremmling goal when a hard slap shot could not be handled by the goalie and Dubois capitalized on the rebound.
The first period ended with a 2-2 tie. In the second, Smith put his mark on this game by scoring at 7:42 from an assist by Dubois to put the Bulldogs up, 3-2.
Then at 6:36, Boatright received a pass in the slot from Strahan and put a hard slap shot pass the Kremmling goalie to put the Bulldogs up by two. But Kremmling did not give up. At 4:19 in the second, Motz, of Kremmling, scored again to put the Cattle Kings within one goal.
The third period was hard fought by both teams and it wasn't until midway in the third that Motz scored again for Kremmling to tie the game at 4-4.
The rest of the game was fast with a run-and-shoot style of play, but both goalies were solid. The game ended in a 4-4 tie with Bulldog goalie Bryce Ponikvar denying 41 of 45 shots on goal while the Bulldogs put 30 shots on goal. The Bulldogs were led by Smith with one goal and two assists, Boatright with two goals, Dubois with one goal and one assist, and Strahan with one assist.
"We have a fairly high ratio of shot to goals, we just need to get more shots on goal and we'll win these close games" Bulldog head coach Darin Hickey said. The Bulldogs have lost three league games each by one goal.
"This age group in the Rocky Mountain League is very well matched and no one is going to run away with a title without a fight" said Kevin Swan, president of Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League.