Cougars ice Grand Valley |

Cougars ice Grand Valley

Craig hockey team wins doubleheader to advance in playoffs

Ben Bulkeley
Craig's Brenden Spencer, center, unleashes a slap shot in the first game Saturday against Grand Valley. The bantam Cougars won both games to advance to the Frozen Four.Ben Bulkeley

Despite trailing, 3-1, in the third period of a playoff game against Grand Valley, Matt Balderston and his Craig Cougar Bantam teammates didn't worry.

They just went to work.

Balderston tied the game with a slick, no-look, behind-the-back goal, and the Cougars rallied, 4-3, to take the first game of a best-of-three series Saturday at the Moffat County Ice Arena.

"We stepped it up," he said. "We didn't get down. Even though we were down three goals, we didn't give up."

With the momentum the team built up, the Cougars were able to defeat the Mavericks, 9-1, in the second game to punch their tickets to Saturday's Frozen Four in Gunnison.

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Balderston, who scored four goals on the day, was quick to credit his goalie Trent Parrott with the team's success.

Parrott stopped 32 of 36 shots in the two games, and he made several acrobatic stops in both games to keep the Cougars ahead.

Grand Valley kicked off the scoring in the first game with a breakaway goal one minute and eight seconds into the first period.

The Mavericks would score again at with 6:34 remaining in the first to take a 2-0 lead.

Grand Valley would score its last goal one minute and six seconds into the second period.

The Cougars scored their first goal three minutes later, as Dillon Porter was able to slice through the Mavericks defense and connect with a shot.

Balderston scored one minute into the third period to cut the score to 3-2, and a few minutes later, he added his second goal of the game to tie the score.

Thayne Riley scored the game winner with four minutes remaining.

In the second game, Balderston said the Cougars were out to dominate the Mavericks.

"We set the tempo early," he said. "We kept it up for the entire game."

In the opening minute, the Cougars were able to score, and two minutes later, Tyler Gerber was able to push the lead to 2-0.

With the first period halfway through, Porter connected with a goal to give the Cougars a 3-0 advantage, and in the waning seconds of the opening period, Riley scored.

The second period saw goals from Porter, Taylor Shrode and two more by Balderston to give him four on the day.

Grand Valley was able to get on the board two minutes into the third period, but Craig's Cade Bangs responded with a goal to push the Cougars to a 9-1 advantage.

Part of Craig's success could have come from a size advantage, Balderston said.

"In the second game, (Grand Valley) was starting to get tired," he said. "They only had two lines, and we had three. They didn't have the same edge they had in the first game."

With the Cougars playing Saturday in Gunnison, Balderston said the team has momentum following the weekend sweep.

"We're really confident right now," he said. "We've won our last four games. We've been playing really hard, and it's starting to click for us."

Game results

Craig Cougars bantams box score vs. the Grand Valley Mavericks (Game 1):

Team / First period / Second period / Third period / Final

Craig / 0 / 1 / 3 / 4

Grand Valley / 2 / 1 / 0 / 3

Craig Cougars bantams box score vs. the Grand Valley Mavericks (Game 2):

Team / First period / Second period / Third period / Final

Craig / 4 / 4 / 1 / 9

Grand Valley / 0 / 0 / 1 / 1

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