Mark Oxley takes a shot on goal Tuesday night during a Craig Red Dogs hockey practice in preparation for the 15th annual Yampa Valley Invitational this weekend at Moffat County Ice Arena. Ten teams will hit the ice to battle it out, with the first game beginning at 5:45 p.m. Friday and the championship game held at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Mark Oxley takes a shot on goal Tuesday night during a Craig Red Dogs hockey practice in preparation for the 15th annual Yampa Valley Invitational this weekend at Moffat County Ice Arena. Ten teams will hit the ice to battle it out, with the first game beginning at 5:45 p.m. Friday and the championship game held at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Yampa Valley Invitational hockey tournament begins Friday

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If you go

What: Yampa Valley Invitational

When: 5:45 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Sunday

Where: Moffat County Ice Arena, 600 S. Ranney

• For more information, call 824-3011

— Sometimes the dream never dies.

Beginning Friday, many men who have grown up emulating Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Peter Forsberg, will push aside their bills, jobs and families for a chance to lace up a pair of ice skates, clutch a stick and chase a frozen piece of black rubber

The 15th annual Yampa Valley Invitational mens hockey tournament kicks off this weekend at Moffat County Ice Arena.

Ten teams - including Craig's own Red Dogs - will compete for three days beginning at 5:45 p.m. Friday and playing through the weekend until a champion is decided in the 10 a.m. game Sunday.

"This event started 15 years ago with four teams and not a lot of ice," Red Dogs coach Jim Neton said.

My, how times have changed.

Gone is the open-air rink that forced the original tournament to be played in the early morning or late at night.

Refrigeration and a roof were added to the ice arena and, with it, more teams.

And more teams means tougher competition.

"It's become more and more competitive each year," Red Dogs player John Doan said. "Teams that we keep having come in, keep getting stronger and stronger."

Teams from Rock Springs, Wyo., Steamboat Springs, Laramie, Wyo., Denver (two teams), Casper, Wyo., Grand Junction, Eagle Valley and Glenwood Springs join the Red Dogs in the event.

"We have a large pool of teams from all over the place," Doan said. "It will be some good, fast, competitive hockey."

Craig's highest finish in the event was third in 2006. The Red Dogs finished fourth in 2008 and are seeded fifth this year.

"Our goal is always to reach the championship game," Neton said. "At the least, we want to advance to the third-place game."

The teams will be split into two pools of five teams in the round robin formula.

The top six teams advance to a playoff - Pool A No. 3 vs. Pool B No. 3 for the fifth-place title, Pool A No. 2 vs. Pool B No. 2 for the third-place crown, and the respective pool champions will face off in the tournament championship game - on Sunday.

Admission is free to spectators.

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