Craig hockey teams notch wins with tight teamwork
Craig hockey players have no doubt worked up an appetite for their Thanksgiving meal, and in addition to turkey, cranberries and stuffing they’re already hungry for second helpings of competition.
Craig Youth Hockey Association teams had a busy weekend both at home and on the road as athletes across multiple age levels took to the ice.
Beginning their season were the Moffat County Bulldogs club team which play under the CYHA banner. The 18 and under Midget group 1-2 during games on the Front Range.
Coach Mike Boatright emphasized an important phrase for the Bulldog offense — “First shot, first goal.”
The mantra sunk in as Colton Lodato struck within 12 seconds of the opening Saturday game against Arvada Gold, assisted by AJ Barber and Wyatt Boatright.
Though Arvada went on to win 5-3, Tristan Farquharson and Boatright scored two more goals for the Bulldogs.
The following matchup was far stronger, as the Moffat County crew won 6-2, including a hat trick by Wyatt Boatright, one goal by Farquharson and two by Dom Bell. In a game full of solid teamwork, Farquharson and Zach Soron each aided in two scores, while Bell, Boatright and Brayden Tuttle each also had one assist in the team’s first victory.
Sunday saw tougher competition, and the Bulldogs fell 9-2 against Arapahoe’s Red team, the leaders of the Colorado Recreational Youth Hockey League.
Lodato scored the group’s first net with an assist by Farquharson, and Boatright earned a late penalty kill score aided by Grady Anson.
Moffat County began a second game against Arapahoe, though it had to be cut short and rescheduled when Bulldog goalie Jack Doane suffered a slash by a skate that resulted in bleeding and stitches.
In the three full games, Doane had 65 total saves of the 81 shots against him.
Head coach Tim Knez was more than satisfied with the events of the first weekend.
“We have a group of players that are disciplined and willing to put out 110 percent every shift,” he said.
The Bulldogs will travel to Vernal, Utah this weekend for non-league games against the Uintah Utes’ varsity team, the eighth-ranked squad in the state.
The Midget group’s first home games will take place Dec. 2, including the program’s salute to veterans.
Back on the home front, CYHA’s 14U Bantam group faced off in Craig against fellow Continental Divide Youth Hockey League team Summit.
The Western Slope League — comprised of Craig and Grand Junction players — went 0-3 against the Lightning but kept it close in each round that coach Adam Campbell could only describe as “intense.”
Saturday scores of 5-3 and 4-2 led to a 3-2 Sunday defeat that was heavy on penalties, with a full 60 minutes in fouls racked up between the two teams, 38 of which were against the Sting.
“A lot of hard contact,” Campbell said.
Clay Durham scored a hat trick in the first game, with one assist by Zach Hamilton. Durham scored once in the second game, aided by Eli Dormaier, while Riot Vigil took one unassisted. Hamilton scored once Sunday, assisted by Durham, while Levi Dormaier fed it to Carter Behrman for the Sting’s final score of the weekend.
Floyd Cox had 45 saves across two games, with Levi Dormaier taking 23 in one game.
The combined team will have the holiday weekend off before meeting Aspen in Grand Junction Dec. 2 and 3.
Campbell said the different venue might be a factor in gameplay, though he doesn’t expect it to be a huge adjustment.
“As long as the kids have got their skates sharp and head in the game, it won’t be much,” he said. “To them, it’s just another place to play.”
It doesn’t hurt to be a Squirt
CYHA’s youngest competitive group, the 10U Squirts, began their league schedule Sunday, also hosting Summit and taking a 1-1 split.
Following an early morning 5-0 shutout by the Lightning, the Cougars showed it was lesson learned and applied in the subsequent part of the doubleheader. A back-and-forth game was decided in the final moments as a long shot by Grant Sis gave the team a go-ahead at 6-5 with two minutes left.
Still, coach Jim Neton instructed his players to stay focused.
“This is never-give-up time,” he told athletes, likening the two minutes to two miles in a long race.
Despite Summit continually crashing the Craig goal, Cougar defense held tight to earn the win.
“We were up, then down, but everybody stayed positive,” Jim Neton said. “It’s a big thing for us to develop that team camaraderie.”
Quinn Allen had 12 saves in goal in the first game, while Hayden Urroz denied 19 shots in the crease later in the day.
Sis took the hat trick in the victory, while Patrick Neton scored twice, and Boston Armstrong scored his first goal as a Squirt, also earning an assist.
The group’s record is 1-2-1 after a loss and a tie during a Nov. 11 set in Vernal. The Squirts will next host Vail Dec. 10.
Though players at the 10U level are still mastering basic skills like staying upright on their skates, they’re picking things up quickly, Jim Neton said, with an inter-team house league giving the group a better sense of competition during practices.
“It helps them keep their heads up, look for passes better,” he said. “Everyone has improved in some aspect of the game.”