Craig Cougar Squirts takes championship in holiday home tourney
10U team goes 4-1 during weekend event, defeats Rock Springs in rematch for title
‘Twas a week before Christmas when the Craig Youth Hockey Association Cougars got their holiday gift early.
The 10 and under Squirts for CYHA were the big winners of the ‘Tis the Season Holiday Hockey Tournament Saturday and Sunday at Moffat County Ice Arena.
Cougar coach Jim Neton said this was the first time in the tourney’s five years that the home program finished in first place, Front Range team Hyland Hills winning all four previous years.
Riding the momentum of a 5-1 Friday league win against Steamboat Springs Craig kids were 4-1 in the event as they started with a 1-0 Saturday morning win over Hyland Hills.
“They were good, but they didn’t have the best defense, so it was pretty easy to go around them,” team captain Jim Neal said.
Zane Herod added that the game against the Jaguars included some strong players.
“One of their big kids had a really strong arm, and I couldn’t even see the puck flying when it went around the boards,” he said.
A win of 3-2 against one of two teams from Rock Springs, Wyoming, was followed by a Saturday evening loss of 4-3 to the other Miner team, Rock Springs I.
A Sunday morning 4-1 defeat of Oak Creek put Craig in the championship round, again facing Rock Springs I, which was undefeated so far in the weekend.
The Miners took the lead early in the final game, but the Cougars chiseled away at the Rock Springs defense, increasing their shot total with a hat trick by Grant Sis quickly giving the Craig bunch the 3-1 advantage, assists by Jim Neal and Hayden Urroz.
“They’ve been fighting all season, and whenever we’re down, they just keep plugging away and eventually it comes,” Jim Neton said.
Another Miner goal narrowed the gap to put the pressure on the Cougars to stay out of overtime, with skaters staying stacked up around goalie Caden Bugay as he protected the net.
Once the final buzzer sounded to signal Craig’s 3-2 victory, Bugay found himself at the bottom of a pile of teammates as they swarmed him in celebration.
“It’s a little painful, but it was good,” Bugay said. “Everyone was congratulating me.”
Bugay had 34 total saves across the weekend, as well as 10 saves in the Friday Steamboat game, while fellow keeper Memphis Herndon had 28 saves in two tourney games.
Herndon also had one goal and one assist in the Steamboat game, with Patrick Neton taking two goals Friday, Jim Neal and Ryan Booker one goal each and one assist each for Urroz, Wyatt Schell and Kaidin Anthony.
Sis led in total scoring for the tournament with five goals, Jim Neal three and Aaron Gregory two. Sis and Urroz also led in assists with three each.
Jim Neton added that Greg Neal’s work in organizing made the tournament run smoothly and player performance made the event better. The team is also 6-3-1 in the regular schedule.
“I’m really excited for the boys, they played tight games all weekend, skated hard, they made good passes, good hockey decisions,” he said. “What a great tournament.”
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.
As part of Moffat County High School’s Class of 2019 graduation ceremony, outgoing students took the opportunity to express their creativity, honor their past and look to the future atop their mortarboards.