Craig hockey shines against West Elk | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig hockey shines against West Elk

Craig's Garrett Ferguson makes a move to attack the goal Saturday night during the Bulldogs' game against West Elk at the Loudy-Simpson Park Ice Arena. The Craig Youth Hockey Association Midget team lost, 2-0, in their closest game of the season.

Saturday night may not have spelled victory for the oldest members of the Craig Youth Hockey Association, but the way they played was a win all in itself.

CYHA's Midget team had its closest game of the regular season this weekend at the Loudy-Simpson Park Ice Arena, taking a 2-0 loss against visiting West Elk.

The Wolverines, the top team in the Colorado Prep Hockey League found a much-improved Bulldog squad compared to the one they had beaten in 8-1 and 6-2 games last month. Craig had also defeated the team, 1-0, in a neutral tournament at the end of December, so anything was possible.

The Craig team was ready to step up and demand their due in a very even-matched affair. Neither lineup allowed the other to get away with much on offense within the very tight first two periods, during which West Elk led Craig 17-11 in total shots, none finding the net.

All the Bulldogs needed was a hole in the Wolverine defense, though getting into the right spot at the right time was something that just didn't happen despite plenty of attempts.

"We passed well, and we kept our heads and gave it 100 percent," said Colby Beckett a Moffat County High School freshman. "I think we were prepared better for them mentally this time."

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A West Elk goal about six minutes into the third let Craig know they needed to make their move. While a Wolverine penalty for head contact and misconduct gave a temporary power play to Bulldogs, both teams got called twice more as the game continued.

Coach Randy Armstrong pulled goaltender Wyatt Bellio — who had 27 saves — with slightly more than one minute remaining in an effort to gain some offensive clout, but West Elk was able to seize the puck and score on the open goal.

"We wanted to do that earlier to get another skater out, but it just didn't work out," Armstrong said.

Overall, West Elk had 29 shots on goal compared to Craig's 18.

A shrinking roster has hurt the Bulldogs in recent weeks — Brodey Gutierrez remains unable to play needing knee surgery, and Zach Soron was benched to recover from a concussion he sustained last week. Riley Allen also had taken a concussion earlier in the season but was cleared medically to play this weekend.

"By the end (of the Saturday game), we only had seven skaters, but they did so well and played with a lot of heart," Armstrong said. "They've skated so well these last four games in a row, they are a whole different team. They're playing hockey now."

West Elk came out much harder in the second game of the series Sunday morning, slamming the Bulldogs, 8-2.

The last four games of their regular season will all be at home, as well, running from Feb. 20 to 22 as they host the Aspen and Heritage teams.

Though he expects Aspen to provide a struggle, Beckett predicts the Heritage games to be potential wins.

"I think we'll come out hard and beat them," he said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.

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