Craig hockey teams enjoy stretch at home; Moffat County Bulldogs to host February tourney
The older they get, the fewer matches at home the teams of Craig Youth Hockey Association tend to see, and athletes and coaches don’t plan to take the coming weeks for granted.
CYHA’s Moffat County Bulldogs are back in action for the winter season, with the schedule rolling again this weekend as the group of 18 and under Midgets and 14U Bantam ages will see a set of games in Littleton.
As part of the Colorado Recreational Hockey League, the squad will primarily see Front Range teams, much as they did during the fall portion of the season, which wrapped in early December, going 3-6.
Working out the winter games took some time, during which the team has spent the past six weeks with plenty of practice hours for what will be a quick stretch of competition.
“We’ve got them all pretty much jammed into February, just one week off, then tourney, tourney, tourney,” coach John Doane said.
The league finals take place in late February and early March, while the Bulldogs will play in the Mile High Meltdown during President’s Day weekend, in between planning a pancake breakfast fundraiser Feb. 22.
However, the Dogs will be at their own rink Feb. 8 and 9, hosting a round robin tournament at Moffat County Ice Arena, during which they’ll face Hyland Hills, Greeley and Alamosa. The team’s last match that Saturday night will be preceded by a veteran’s appreciation ceremony.
As the group prepares for a busy several weeks, Doane said he anticipates some big differences from the fall.
“We’ve got such a young team, but they’ve gotten better at all of the hockey skills. They’re a fast team anyway, but they’re starting to understand the nuances and the game isn’t speeding up on them as much as it was at the start of the season,” he said. “They were always in a rush and not always looking to make a play, but now I’ve seen a huge difference.”
With a bevy of younger players on defense, Doane said coaching them on the finer points has had a clear effect.
“That’s what we’ve been working on is understanding positioning, when to pitch, when not to, when to reverse the puck, and to skate to make a play when the puck gets dumped in your own zone. Don’t just dump it against the wall; look, go the other way,” he said. “They were building on that in the last set of games in the fall, but they’ve really become very adept at doing that.”
The Bulldogs will face many of the same CRHL opponents, though the rosters may have changed since then.
“It’ll be interesting to see if they’re the same teams that we’ve played against or if they’ve changed,” Doane said. “You never know with Denver. You might have another six guys come out for the winter season.”
CYHA’s younger teams spent the past weekend on their home ice for the first time since the ‘Tis the Season Tournament, while earlier in the month, the 10U Squirts and 12U Peewees saw road rematches with Durango.
The Steamers proved a challenge for both sets of Cougars, with Squirts falling 12-4 and 12-2 and Peewees downed 4-0 and 9-3.
Boston Armstrong, Hayden Urroz and Eric Warrior each put in a goal for the Peewees, while Armstrong led the Squirts with a hat trick in their first game and one more goal in the second.
Squirts Halei Coffey and Eli Francone each also scored during the road trip, both off Armstrong’s assists.
Peewee goalie Quinn Allen took 32 saves during the series, while Squirt keeper Julius Green had 26.
Cougars hosted opponents from Vernal, Utah during Saturday games, with Armstrong scoring all four goals in losses of 9-2 and 5-2 for the Squirts.
Peewees split the day, running up the score in an 8-1 victory over the Raptors, during which Warrior, Urroz, and Tristen Smith each earned two goals, with one apiece for Joanna Almeida and Tristen Hedman, while Jaryd Preston led in assists with two.
A 6-4 loss saw Armstrong score twice, with Warrior and Smith each netting one.
Sharing goalie duties, Allen and Preston each had six saves in the crease, and Green had 22 during the set of matches.
Squirts and Peewees will have another Saturday series coming up this weekend, hosting Grand Junction, with Squirts playing at 7:30 and 10:15 a.m. and Peewees at 9 and 11:45 a.m. at Moffat County Ice Arena.
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There is a chill in the air, and snow covers the ground outside a farmhouse west of Hayden as Noah Price and Sydney Ellbogen talk about the operations of Mountain Bluebird Farm.