Craig Bantam hockey hits hard in home opener with Telluride
The season is in full swing for Craig Youth Hockey Association’s 14 and under Bantam team, and a meager roster is bolstered by a group that’s ready and raring to hit the ice hard.
The trick, according to coach Cary Herndon, will be making sure players harness that excitement properly and keep their heads.
The Cougars began their schedule Saturday at home with a doubleheader against Telluride, one which the Craig team split with the Lizardheads, falling 6-5 in the early game only to dominate the next round 9-3.
The match-up was a highly physical one between Telluride, who relied on speed, and the Cougars who, even with only seven skaters to the Lizardheads’ eight, came out swinging as the undeniable bruisers.
The two opponents were close in penalty minutes for the opener, but Craig players were far more frequent visitors to the box in the afternoon game, amassing 29 minutes.
Even so, Telluride’s power play possibilities were limited to three goals in the second period, at which point, Craig had already put four points on the board, with Chayton McDonald already earning his second hat trick.
“I’ve been playing Telluride for a while now, and they always come out strong in the first game and then just get worn out,” McDonald said. “A lot of it’s mental, and then fatigue kicks in.”
Despite a major penalty for head contact that kept him confined for 10 minutes, he had five goals in the second game, eight total for the day.
McDonald spent the past season playing for Steamboat Springs but was looking forward to suiting up again for Craig.
“We come together really well. We’ve got to work more on passing, but we’ve got the speed,” he said.
Brant Gutierrez also had a trio of goals in the second game to add to his two from earlier, while Garrett Anson put one past the Lizardhead keeper on a breakaway during the Cougar penalty kill.
In the Craig goal, Dylan Herndon earned 17 saves in the first game, doubling that with 34 in the second.
Cougars had nine assists across the day, split among Gutierrez, Carter Behrman, Forrest Siminoe and Baryn Suessmeier.
“They definitely came out aggressive,” Cary Herndon said of his athletes, adding that the heavy hitting had pros and cons.
A check from behind against the boards late in the day took Anson out of the game, with Telluride parents going so far as to urge the officials to end the match early. Even with the win, Herndon had some stern words in store for the locker room.
“They get a little riled up, and we don’t condone it, but it gets rough,” he said.
Even with low numbers working against him just as last year when he coached many of the same players at the 12U Peewee level, Herndon said the group has a lot of promise.
“They’re a good team so far, and they do really well when they focus and work together,” he said.
The early season series is Craig Bantams’ last competition for nearly a month, next scheduled to host Grand Junction Dec. 2, the same weekend as the 10U Squirts’ first games against Durango.
The Peewees will host two games starting at 9 a.m. Nov. 11 against Telluride at Moffat County Ice Arena.
As for the 18U Midgets, the Moffat County Bulldogs started their season Saturday with a road win in Denver against Arapahoe’s Navy team.
Goalie Jack Doane earned a shutout, while skaters made it a 6-0 day, including four goals by Clay Durham and one each from Grady Anson and Garrett Stockman.
The Bulldogs moved to 2-0 for the season with a Sunday win against Arapahoe Gold, 8-3.
A blend of Northwest Colorado imagery and splashy colors now greets Craig drivers and pedestrians.