The Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team is filled with returning players and new faces. The team is, back row, from left, Taylor Bangs, Michael Samuelson, Jarrod Stillion, Bubba Ivers, Jarret Walt, Jarred Blevins, Dru Nielson, Steven Wagner, Ethan O’Mailia, coach Jerry Strahan and CJ Walt. Front row, from left, is coach Walker Criswell, Ben Magnuson, Sean Southard, Wyatt Villa, Ty DeGuelle, Spencer Wayman, Kelsie Pomeroy and Jake Blevins.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

The Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team is filled with returning players and new faces. The team is, back row, from left, Taylor Bangs, Michael Samuelson, Jarrod Stillion, Bubba Ivers, Jarret Walt, Jarred Blevins, Dru Nielson, Steven Wagner, Ethan O’Mailia, coach Jerry Strahan and CJ Walt. Front row, from left, is coach Walker Criswell, Ben Magnuson, Sean Southard, Wyatt Villa, Ty DeGuelle, Spencer Wayman, Kelsie Pomeroy and Jake Blevins.

Hockey team is loaded with new and returning players

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Goalie Spencer Wayman is poised to block a shot from a teammate during a recent Moffat County Bulldogs hockey practice at the Moffat County Ice Arena.

At a glance

Coach: Walker Criswell

Seniors: 6

League: Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League

Boys varsity hockey

TBD Dec. 13 at Durango

7:45 a.m. Dec. 20 vs. Crested Butte

11:15 a.m. Dec. 20 vs. Crested Butte

8 a.m. Jan. 3 at Grand Valley

10 a.m. Jan. 3 at Grand Valley

TBD Jan. 17 at Kremmling

9:45 a.m. Jan. 23 vs. Gunnison

9 a.m. Jan. 24 vs. Gunnison

8 a.m. Jan. 30 vs. Telluride

10 a.m. Jan. 30 vs. Telluride

TBD Feb. 20 TBD Playoff/play-down weekend

TBD Feb. 21 TBD Playoff/play-down weekend

TBD Feb. 27 at RMYHL Frozen Four (tournament)

TBD Feb. 28 at RMYHL Frozen Four (tournament)

TBD March 13 at CAHA State Finals

TBD March 14 at CAHA State Finals

TBD March 27 TBD RMYHL All-Star Game

TBD March 28 TBD RMYHL All-Star Game

Around the Moffat County Ice Arena, there is a sense that this winter will be special.

With six seniors, a bevy of talented juniors, sophomores and freshmen, the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team should be able to face off against almost anyone.

“This could be the year,” junior Jarrod Stillion said. “I think we’re going to be pretty darn good.”

Coach Walker Criswell agreed with Stillion, saying the Bulldogs have looked good in early season practices.

“It’s looking very promising,” he said. “We have a good group of kids and a pretty consistent talent pool. We have a lot of good attitudes on the team this year.”

Those attitudes will be one of the team’s greatest strengths as it navigates its way through the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League, Criswell said.

“We’re hoping our strength will be teamwork,” he said. “If this team can gel as a unit and play smart team hockey — that’s a pretty powerful thing.”

Perhaps more than any other team sport, hockey requires all players to form a cohesive unit, Criswell said.

“They have to be able to play together,” he said. “The magic to a hockey team is getting the right kids all playing together.”

The Bulldogs shouldn’t have a problem sharing the ice this season.

“This year, our team chemistry is just right,” Stillion said. “We have a good group of guys returning, and a couple of good young players.”

Stillion said the team should have several bright spots.

“We’ll have a good offensive club, and the goal tending will be pretty good,” he said. “We just have a really good offense.”

CJ Walt will be one of the Bulldogs doling out hits on defense.

The linebacker-turned-defensemen will be patrolling the blue line for what he called one of the best teams he has played for.

“We are going to be really good,” he said. “Everything about this team should be strong. We have some good leaders on this team and we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”

Spencer Wayman will be manning the goal for the Bulldogs.

“We have a real shot at being very good,” he said. “We have a great core, and a lot of guys that will keep us in line for a lot of wins.

“There are a lot of strengths on this team. Defense is going to be a big part of our success.”

And Wayman, who is a “super senior,” said the progression of the young players will help the team not only this year, but in the upcoming years, too.

“As soon as we get some of the younger guys acclimated and used to the system, we should be set for a while,” he said.

Assistant coach Jerry Strahan said he did not know the team’s previous-season record.

“The weird thing is that we don’t care,” he said. “We just want them to play better.”

Already, the team is shaping up to be a serious contender.

“I think we knew we were going to give up some games early in the year last year,” Strahan said. “We might not have to do that this year. It takes a few games to get everybody on the same page as we are. This year, I don’t think we’ll have that problem.”

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