The Moffat County Bulldog club hockey team traveled south during the weekend to play doubleheader league games against two of the southern division top teams, Telluride and the Gunnison varsity team.
The Bulldogs earned a tie with Gunnison on Saturday, losing the first game, 6-1, and winning the second, 5-4. On Sunday, Moffat County netted a tie with Telluride, losing the first game, 2-1, and winning the second, 3-1
The Gunnison games were on an outdoor rink with the temperature at 23 degrees.
"This is the warmest temperature we have ever played in Gunnison," co-captain Mark Oxley said. "We usually play early morning games here, and it's 20 below zero."
The Bulldogs started the scoring as Bo Boatright dropped in an unassisted full-strength goal at 4:06 in the first period. Soon after the goal, Bulldog defensemen Ethan Robinson was injured with a stick to the ribs.
"With only four defensemen and having one hurt in the first period makes it hard to stop the other team from getting shots on goal," coach Art Smith said.
Gunnison went on to score two goals in the first and four in the second to capture a 6-1 win. The Bulldogs were out-shot 32 to 17 with Bryce Ponikvar in goal.
Robinson returned to play in the second game, and his presence was felt right away. He hit a blazing slap shot from the blue line that found the back of the Gunnison net 1:28 into the game.
Co-captain Scott Smith had the assist on the power play goal. Gunnison's Corey Brown scored at 9:58 in the first to tie the game. But Bulldog forward Cole Dubois answered with a full-strength unassisted goal at 2:32 to end the first with the Bulldogs up, 2-1.
During a power play in the second, the Bulldogs took advantage when forward Joel Pomeroy had a wrist shot through the Gunnison's goalie legs, and put the Bulldogs up, 3-1.
The last four minutes of the second period delivered four full-strength goals, two for each team. It started when Gunnison's Dustin Mullen scored unassisted at 4:00. Bulldogs Thayne Anderson scored nex,t with assists from Robinson and Boatright. Then 1:27 later, And-erson scored the game-winning goal with an assist from Zach Beckwith. With less then two minutes left in the game, Gunnison pulled their goalie for a sixth attacker. It helped when they scored with only :46 seconds left. But it was too little too late and the Bulldogs came away with a 5-4 win. Goalie Bryce Ponikvar faced 40 shots on goal in the win.
The next morning found the Bulldogs at last year's league champion's rink in Telluride. Telluride earned a trip to the state championships in Colorado Springs last year and came in fourth.
"Telluride plays an extremely fast pace of hockey whereas Gunnison plays more of a physical game," Boatright said.
Telluride's Jake Lamb and Gary Kolar both scored early in the first period. But the Bulldogs adjusted and came out just as fast and with the help of goalie Spencer Wayman, kept Telluride from scoring anymore during the game. Telluride had its No. 1 goalie in the net, Randy Roth and although the Bulldogs out shot Telluride, Roth was blocking them all.
That is, until Bulldog Scott Smith had a breakaway and Telluride defensemen Cody Smail pulled him down from behind, which constituted a rare penalty shot. Smith faked to his left and then back to his right and put the puck over the left shoulder of Roth to bring the Bulldogs within one goal.
The Bulldogs once again outshot Telluride in the third but could not come up with any more goals.
"Telluride and Gunnison have a great group of skaters and play makers, our defense overall was solid and our forwards persistent efforts in fore checking paid off" coach Smith said. "I'm very pleased with the guys efforts this weekend."
The Bulldogs' final regular season game is against Steam-boat at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Moffat County Ice Arena. The Bulldogs then will travel to Vernal, Utah, for a tournament next weekend.