Ethan O’Mailia, a Moffat County High School senior, skates down the ice during practice Nov. 10 at the Moffat County Ice Arena. O’Mailia will be the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team’s captain this season and said he hopes to keep the team from big letdowns during games.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Ethan O’Mailia, a Moffat County High School senior, skates down the ice during practice Nov. 10 at the Moffat County Ice Arena. O’Mailia will be the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team’s captain this season and said he hopes to keep the team from big letdowns during games.

Youth movement

Bulldogs hockey starts fresh with new coach, young players

Team at a glance ...

Coaches:

• Rick Villa — head coach

• Andrew Bilski — assistant coach

• Tanya Ferguson — assistant coach

Seniors:

• Alfredo Lebron

• Ethan O’Mailia

• Wyatt Villa

2010 record:

• 10-9-1 overall

By the numbers:

3: The Bulldogs placed third in the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League Frozen Four last season. The team beat Kremmling, but lost to Crested Butte and Gunnison.

1: This is Rick Villa’s first year as head coach of the Bulldogs. Mark Samuelson stepped down after last season, and Villa took over the team, which includes his son, Wyatt Villa.

5: The Bulldogs lost the five players who had the most points last season. Nathan Tomlin and Colin Walt exceeded the age limit, while juniors Bubba Ivers, Michael Samuelson and Jarrett Walt decided to play in Steamboat Springs.

photo

Rick Villa, left, talks to goalie Trent Parrott during practice Nov. 10 at the Moffat County Ice Arena. Rick took over for Mark Samuelson this season and said the team’s hustle will decide a lot of games.

2011-2012 Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey schedule:

(Date — place — host/opponent)

• Dec. 3 — away — Durango at Glenwood Springs

• Dec. 3 — away — Glenwood Springs

• Dec. 4 — away — Durango at Glenwood Springs

• Dec. 17 — home — Glenwood Springs

• Dec. 17 — home — Crested Butte

• Dec. 18 — home — Crested Butte

• Jan. 21 — away — Glenwood Springs

• Jan. 21 — away — Grand Valley at Glenwood Springs

• Jan. 22 — away — Grand Valley at Glenwood Springs

• Jan. 22 — away — Glenwood Springs

• Jan. 28 — away — Crested Butte

• Jan. 28 — away — Durango at Crested Butte

• Jan. 29 — away — Durango at Crested Butte

• Jan. 29 — away — Crested Butte at Crested Butte

• Feb. 4 — home — Glenwood Springs

• Feb. 4 — home — Grand Valley

• Feb. 5 — home — Grand Valley

In high school sports, every team has to deal with losing players and rebuilding.

The Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team is no different.

After taking third in the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League Frozen Four last season, the Bulldogs will start the 2011 season without their five leading scorers from a year ago.

Nathan Tomlin and Colin Walt exceeded the age limit, while Moffat County High School juniors Bubba Ivers, Michael Samuelson and Jarrett Walt decided to play in Steamboat Springs.

The team will also have a new face in charge, as Rick Villa starts his first season as head coach of the midget team, taking over for Mark Samuelson.

“I wasn’t sure at first,” Rick said of the decision to take over the head coaching position. “But I decided I wanted to do it. I have coached pee-wee and bantams before this and have some adult league playing experience.”

While losing the five leading scorers is a blow, Rick said, he knows the team can overcome, starting with senior Ethan O’Mailia.

“I am going to be looking at all of the players to step up,” he said. “Ethan will be the team captain, so I think he can help lead the team.”

As for the players, they aren’t worried either, O’Mailia said.

“We have some good talent that came up and came back,” he said. “We always have kids who can score, so I personally think we will be alright.”

The Bulldogs went 10-9-1 last season en route to their third-place finish.

This year, Rick said he hopes to push the players harder.

“I am probably more of a strict person,” he said. “I expect respect amongst the teammates themselves and I think that will help them succeed.”

Senior Wyatt Villa, Rick’s son, will start at center for the Bulldogs.

Wyatt said his dad has implemented some new strategies and hopes to see positive results.

“We have tried out some new drills and forms of offense and defense,” he said. “With the new system, which helps us move the puck easier, I think we will see in the first game how it goes and if we improve.”

Compared to last season, Wyatt said the forwards aren’t going to be able to muscle their way down the ice.

“I think our forwards are going to be strong, but will have to change some things up,” he said. “Instead of skating down and scoring, we are going to have to rely more on passing and moving the puck around. We lost a lot of speed and size, so that is how we can make up for that.”

On the defensive side of the puck, O’Mailia said the team will have some young players needing to step up, but thinks the team can help out goalie Trent Parrott.

“Our defense is looking pretty good,” he said. “I think we will be getting it out of our zone more and keeping it away from Trent and getting it down to the offense.”

If the Bulldogs make it back to the Frozen Four, they will have a chance to play for first place on their home ice at the Moffat County Ice Arena.

O’Mailia said playing at home will give them an advantage, but Rick said the players have to work for it.

“Combined with our enthusiasm, I think our hustle is going to be our strong point this year,” he said. “Hockey is a fast sport, and they need that hustle.

“The Frozen Four is in Craig this year, and if they play hard and use teamwork, I think we can compete at the top.”

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