Craig hockey team’s extra ice time will keep them warmed up | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig hockey team’s extra ice time will keep them warmed up

— The season has been delayed for the Craig Youth Hockey Association's Midget team, but that's only made the Bulldogs hungrier.

Despite weeks of practice, the team has yet to play an official game after cancellations by Steamboat Springs and Aspen earlier in December. Scrimmages among teammates and with other local groups such as the CYHA Bantam group and the Craig Red Dogs men's team have been the closest thing to game time so far this season.

A tournament in Glenwood Springs this weekend will be the first chance for coach Randy Armstrong to see what his roster looks like in a game scenario, and he thinks the Bulldogs will come out fighting.

"I think they're going to do well because they're ready to play," he said. "The team is really coming together with teamwork and playing together. They're really improving every practice. We have two lines, and they're very equal. We're very blessed with that because a lot of times, there can be disparity. We've got pretty equal strength."

Logan Roberts, team captain and a Moffat County High School senior, said he’s looking forward to seeing players at their best, adding that the season looks promising.

"We’re starting to skate like a team," Roberts said.

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Most of the players have been on the ice together for years, and the less experienced already are getting comfortable, Armstrong said.

Amid changes like the formation of the Colorado Prep Hockey League — the Winter Tier 2 level of which includes Craig, Steamboat, Aspen, West Elk and Heritage — came Armstrong himself. He has been involved with competitive hockey off and on for 15 years, and coming back to CYHA this year, he wanted to ensure that he did things right upon his return.

"I don't yell and scream. I'm more of a teaching-type of coach," he said.

The first session with the Red Dogs was rough on the teen players, but afterward, Armstrong merely told them they knew what they needed to work on and left it at that.

"I actually saw kids' mouths fall open," he said.

The lack of harsh criticism paid off because it wasn't long before many of the issues were fixed and players were noticeably more confident.

"I think they're really responding," Armstrong said.

Wyatt Bellio, an MCHS sophomore, said he's appreciated Armstrong's approach.

"The team's been happier, and it's been nice," he said.

Wyatt is the team's goalie, now in his second year on the team. Although he hasn't had much of a glimpse of the competition yet, Wyatt said he knows Front Range teams are a threat.

"They can practice a little bit more, and they have a deeper bench so they can get fresh legs on the ice," he said.

His older sister, Ripley, also committed to the team for another season. Although she graduated from MCHS this past spring, the CYHA age restrictions still allow her to be a Bulldog for one more year.

"I wanted to get any sort of hockey I possibly could," she said.

Ripley, a student at Colorado Northwestern Community College's Rangely campus, had a shorter amount of practice time than the rest, but the delay in the start to the season has helped her get back into the swing of things with skates and a stick.

"Getting used to everybody has been the big thing, but I think it's going to be a lot of fun," she said.

Janelle O’Dea contributed to this story.

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

Craig Youth Hockey Association Midget team schedule

Time, Date — Opponent/Event, Home/Away

TBD Dec. 27 and 28 — Grizzly Holiday Festival, Away

Noon Jan. 3 — Steamboat Springs, Home

5:15 p.m. Jan. 3 — Steamboat Springs, Home

8 p.m. Jan. 10 — West Elk, Away

10 a.m. Jan. 11 — West Elk, Away

6:15 p.m. Jan. 17 — Steamboat Springs, Home

11:15 a.m. Jan. 18 — Steamboat Springs, Home

4:20 p.m. Jan. 24 — Heritage, Away

TBD Jan. 25 — Heritage, Away

7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 — Aspen, Away

11 a.m. Feb. 1 — Aspen, Away

5:45 p.m. Feb. 7 — West Elk, Home

11:15 a.m. Feb. 8 — West Elk, Home

TBD Feb. 14 and 15 — Up Yer Kilt Highland House Games, Away

4:30 p.m. Feb. 20 — Heritage, Home

9:45 p.m. Feb. 20 — Aspen, Home

TBD Feb. 21 — Aspen, Home

TBD Feb. 21 — Heritage, Home

All home games take place at Loudy-Simpson Park Ice Arena. All events are subject to change.