Bulldog netminder Spencer Wayman readies himself for a shot during practice Monday at the Moffat County Ice Arena. The Bulldogs went 2-1-1 during their preseason four-game road trip to Grand Junction.

Photo by John Vandelinder

Bulldog netminder Spencer Wayman readies himself for a shot during practice Monday at the Moffat County Ice Arena. The Bulldogs went 2-1-1 during their preseason four-game road trip to Grand Junction.

Line change at the top

Bulldog Hockey Club kicks off season in Grand Junction

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Moffat County Bulldog Hockey Club coach Gene Carson, far right, keeps an eye on the team during practice Monday.

The ice barely had frozen inside the arena and yet, they were there.

Four practices in and ready to get the ensuing season under way, the Moffat County Bulldog Hockey Club hit the ice Saturday and Sunday in Grand Junction to participate in a four-game scrimmage - two junior varsity and two varsity - with the Grand Valley Junior Mavericks.

The Bulldogs won two, lost one and earned a tie during the road trip, but wins and losses aren't a priority to first-year head coach Gene Carson and his newly appointed staff.

Yet.

Carson takes over the helm this season after being an assistant the past two.

His first priority?

Hiring quality assistants.

Enter Jerry Strahan and Walker Criswell.

"I had kind of burnt out last year toward the end of the season," Carson said of his year as an assistant to Jim Hall. "I was going to take this year off, but I got a call from Chris Spencer (director of coaching) and he asked me if I'd be interested."

He was, but Carson had a few demands.

"I took the job under the concession that I would have the pick of my assistant coaches," he said. "I picked Walker Criswell and Jerry Strahan."

Strahan is the current coach of the Craig Puck Ewes hockey team, and Criswell has coached youth hockey in Craig previously.

Carson said he picked the duo for separate reasons.

"Walker's approach is hard-nosed, strict disciplinarian that expects a lot out of his players," he said. "Jerry, on the other hand, is a very methodical, well-thought out, soft-spoken coach that can bark when he needs to."

As for Carson himself?

"I'm only a third of the equation," he said. "Let's just say this is the first year I've had two competent co-coaches.

"It's not just one coach, it's the three of us."

The three got a chance to witness their team in action last weekend.

A strong number of underclassman enabled the trio to field two squads this week - varsity and junior varsity - with the JV team kicking things off.

The JV Bulldogs defeated the JV Junior Mavericks, 6-1, behind a hat trick from junior Jarrod Stillion and stellar goaltending by sophomore Curtis Ellgen.

The varsity team fell Saturday evening, 4-1.

In the varsity contest, senior Colt Criswell - hours after running in the high school cross country regional championships - tallied the Bulldogs lone goal.

On Sunday morning, the JV team defeated Grand Valley, 2-0, behind an Ellgen shutout and a goal by CMS eighth-grader Bubba Ivers.

In the final game of the weekend set, Moffat County's varsity team tied the Junior Mavericks at one goal apiece.

Stillion scored his fourth goal of the series for the Bulldogs.

Despite having just four practices under their belt, Carson is pleased with how the season has begun.

"We have a lot of stuff to go over and learn still," he said. "But, for the amount of ice time we had, I thought we played well."

The regular season begins Nov. 8, when the Bulldogs host Grand Valley for real.

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