Craig hockey teams make most of numbers in weekend games
Though some members of Craig Youth Hockey Association will be trading their apparel emblazoned with a ferocious feline with that of a hearty hornet, the season is looking good.
CYHA held its first official home games Saturday for the 14 and under Bantam age group and the 12U Peewees.
Sting is the thing
The Bantams tested the ice while wearing a new set of uniforms as the Western Slope Sting, a combined team of Craig and Grand Junction athletes. Boasting nine Craig kids and seven Junction, the two groups merged to take on the foes that would have boasted much larger rosters than either separately.
Their first group effort came together as a draw against visiting Steamboat Springs, keeping it 3-3 against the Stampede.
Craig’s Clay Durham earned a hat trick for the Sting in the morning game, and players were eager to take a win in the afternoon.
But, Steamboat showed they also weren’t satisfied with a tie and finished the second game 7-1.
“That first one, they were extremely strong, a lot of good contact,” said coach Adam Campbell. “Second game, a lot of it was being out of position, we’ve got to work on that. They noticed our defense was using the boards more, so they started pinching that a lot farther out than we figured.”
Garrett Stockman scored the Sting’s lone goal off the assist by Durham when the group swarmed the Steamboat goal in the second period.
The difference between games could be seen in the shot count. While the Sting took 23 shots in the first game, 25 in the second, the Stampede only took seven shots on goal against keeper Floyd Cox in the first compared to 34 against Levi Dormaier in the second.
Steamboat’s familiarity with Craig players following last year’s combined team between the two — the Northwest Colorado Blizzard — may have also factored in to the later loss, Campbell said.
“They probably remembered some of their techniques, so we’re trying to change that up some,” he said.
Being placed with a set of new teammates can be a challenge, he added, though athletes have not been phased.
“They showed they can really handle it really well with each other,” Campbell said. “Next weekend what we’re hoping for is a lot better in the zoning and cleaner, swifter passes. The aggression level will progress as the games go on. Some of them, it’s brand-new to them this year, so they’re real hesitant about body-on-body contact.”
The Sting will host three games against Summit Nov. 18 and 19. The 10U Squirts will host the same program Nov. 19.
The first set of games for the 12U Peewees was rough to say the least, as Saturday saw the Cougars fall twice to Telluride, 10-2 and 8-1.
With a larger bench, the Lizardheads held the advantage in skaters and shooting, especially in the first game, amassing 26 shots on goalie Caden Bugay, the first of which came after three seconds of play.
The Cougars created far fewer opportunities but still were able to put in the puck twice, starting with a goal by Zane Herod 18 seconds into the game to tie it 1-1 for a brief time.
Ryan Booker also scored late in the second period.
Early goals were crucial, and Craig held the lead to start the second part of the series as Memphis Herndon scored after 90 seconds, though Telluride answered back repeatedly to take the win, Dylan Herndon earning 17 saves in the crease.
A pair of Sunday games against Durango took their toll, as well, as the Steamers sped to fast victories over the Cougars, 8-0 and 12-0.
Dylan Herndon was in goal for both games, earning 51 total saves.
“I think one thing I really need to work on is my glove and the pie-hole,” she said, referring to the area usually covered by a keeper’s stick, also known as the five-hole.
Like Telluride, Durango had nearly twice as many players available against the Cougars, who have eight total.
“They were definitely full-up,” said coach Cary Herndon of their opponents.
Several of last year’s Peewees moved up to the Bantam level, while only a minimal amount of the 10U Squirts now play at the 12U age, making a barebones bench.
Even so, the coach noted that players gave their full effort across the weekend.
“They have a lot of heart, and they played their hearts out,” he said.
Coaches are working on getting the Peewees some additional scrimmages, but the schedule currently has them waiting until Jan. 6 for another official game.
Even with the extended wait until game time, players know more practice can’t hurt.
“It’s a long stretch, but I think that’ll give us the opportunity to work on all the things we need,” Dylan Herndon said.
A Saturday soft opening saw the beginning of a new canine hot spot in Craig.