Craig Cougars girls hockey team hosts Grand Junction in season finale

If you go

What: Craig Cougars vs. Grand Junction

When: 10:30 a.m. (Game 1), 11:45 a.m. (Game 2)

Where: Moffat County Ice Arena, 600 S. Ranney St.

• For more information, call Glenda Bellio at 824-8621 or call the ice arena at 824-3011.

To those who believe hockey is a man's sport, Glenda Bellio begs to differ.

As coach of the Craig Cougars girls hockey team, she's encouraging any doubters to come see for themselves.

The Cougars host Grand Junction today in a season-ending doubleheader at Moffat County Ice Arena.

"This is the first time we've managed to be able to get a girls team together," Bellio said about the 2008-09 Cougars team. "More than anything, what a lot of this is for is to get out there and say 'Look, these girls can play hockey.'"

The puck will drop at 10:30 a.m. to begin the twin billing, followed by an 11:45 a.m. game 2 start time.

Admission is free.

Bellio said she hopes this year's all-girls team will spur interest not only in Craig, but across the Western Slope as well.

"There are a very few girls who play hockey in the Western Slope, and the one's who do are playing on boys teams," she said. "We're trying to get several girls teams going. We'd like to have a U-16 ... and then a U-14 team. We're trying to convince girls to come out and give it a look. I don't think hockey is the image that most girls think it is. Unfortunately, the image that most people have is from the NHL and watching some of the high school boys and stuff like that."

And Bellio is out to prove girls hockey is just as competitive and fluid to watch as the boys and men.

"Girls playing hockey is just as fast and just as aggressive," she said. "Ask any of the members of the Craig Puck Ewes women's hockey team."

The Ewes have become the standard for women's hockey in Northwest Colorado, claiming two of the past three league titles. They currently sit in second place in their division.

They didn't manage that success without playing as girls.

"They are a good example of what you can do when you put your mind to it - male or female," Bellio said. "The only difference between us and the guys is that we don't have checking. That doesn't mean we don't have contact. It just means you can't crush somebody against the boards, and I think it actually increases the skill level of the game. You have to have skill to get the puck away from somebody. You can't just hit them and take it. You've got to earn everything out there."

But, like any other game played by boys or girls, men or women, Bellio's goals are similar.

"It's just like any other game," she said. "We're out to win. But, as a coach, my philosophy is that the winning is icing on the cake. If I can get girls to do things that they never thought they could do, that's the biggest win for me."

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793 or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com.

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