Craig women’s hockey team looks to improve on season

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When the Craig Puck Ewes women’s hockey team plays a game, they generally have 13 ladies dressed to play.

Minus a goalie, that isn’t enough players for two-and-a-half lines.

“A lot of places, boys grow up playing hockey and when they are old enough, they are ready for a men’s team,” said Gayle Criswell, Puck Ewes manager and player. “There just aren’t as many girls growing up playing hockey.”

Criswell, who has been with the women’s team for 10 years as a player and four as the manager, said besides the lack of young girls playing, women’s hockey teams have different issues than men’s teams.

“This year, we have a girl on our team who can’t play because she is pregnant,” Criswell said. “I don’t think we really face gender issues, but as women, we have to deal with things men don’t.”

The Puck Ewes team, which was started more than 12 years ago, plays in the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey league against teams from places like Breckenridge, Vail, Eagle Valley and Steamboat Springs.

After watching her son play hockey, Criswell said she wanted to give it a try.

“I saw how much my son liked it and thought it looked fun, so I looked into the Puck Ewes,” she said. “It is great to have a lot of options of things to do in the winter and hockey is just one more.”

When the team didn’t have a permanent manager and thus the players took turns as manager, Criswell said it was her turn, so she stepped up.

“No one really wanted to keep being manager, but after I did it for the first time, I kept the position,” she said. “I guess it was just something I enjoyed.”

Jamie Eckroth, a defender for the team, said hockey is another thing for women to do together.

“For me, having hockey in Craig is great because it is just a group of women enjoying hockey together,” she said. “We have different women this year, but it is a lot of fun.”

Having started the 2010-11 season with an 0-4-1 record, Eckroth said the team needs more practice.

“The biggest thing we can do is probably practice together more and start to move as a team,” she said. “We lost a few players from last year and we are just having some change overs as a team with new players starting this year.”

In the last two games, the Puck Ewes tied Aspen, 2-2, and lost narrowly to Glenwood Springs, 3-2, both of which should be seen as positives, Eckroth said.

“From the beginning to now, we have definitely shown potential,” she said. “The wins will come soon enough.”

After winning back-to-back league championships a few years ago, Eckroth said the team needs to get back to basics to be successful on the ice.

“Every woman on the team enjoys playing hockey,” she said. “That’s why we all play. We will be at the top again, we just need a little time to work the kinks out.”

The team’s next game is at 9 p.m. Jan. 21 in Steamboat Springs.

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