Craig hockey’s Peewee, Squirts keep scoring consistent in early games
As the younger tiers of Craig Youth Hockey Association adjust to new levels, there’s one thing for sure: they’re not hurting for goals.
CYHA’s 12 and under Peewee and 10U Squirts have put together fierce competitions to begin their schedules, with the Peewee Cougars keeping it close in home opener weekend games Nov. 11 against Telluride.
The Craig crew began the year with a draw against the Lizardheads, a 1-1 finish seeing Patrick Neton score the team’s first goal of the season, assisted by Hayden Urroz and Ryan Booker.
After getting a feel for the other, both teams increased their offensive output in the second half of the doubleheader as Wyatt Schell took over in goal for the Cougars, adding 12 saves for the day.
A first period lead of 3-2 for Craig went by the wayside in the second period as Telluride took control, making it a 5-4 Lizardhead advantage heading into the last part of the day.
Grant Sis knocked in a quick, unassisted goal to tie it up in the third period, but Telluride’s late rally and a key breakaway gave it to the visiting team 7-6.
Overall, Sis and Logan Durham each had two goals, and Patrick Neton and Urroz one apiece. Ian Baker added two assists, Booker and Aiden Schamanski one each.
Durham, a team captain this season, said the group is staying strong on the ice while still mastering some elements of the game.
“We need to really work on getting rebounds,” he said. “It’s a lot better than last year since we have a lot more kids.”
After coaching the Squirts in recent years, Jim Neton moved up to the Peewee level along with many of his former players. Speed is a major emphasis of his game strategy.
“We were hustling, working hard and playing fast. That’s kind of our motto,” he said. “We have to keep working on our skills, getting our shots in the net, keeping heads up and making decisions. That’s something we keep working on in practice.”
The Cougars hosted another home doubleheader Sunday bringing in Gunnison’s West Elk Blue squad. The undefeated Wolverines lead the Continental Divide Youth Hockey League rankings, helped along by their time in Craig.
West Elk swept its hosts 7-3 and 10-6 in hard-fought games, with Caden Bugay earning 12 saves and Schamanski seven in the Cougar crease.
The Craig roster worked around the puck consistently as the day’s nine Cougar goals were spread among seven players: two each for Urroz and Durham and one apiece for Sis, Baker, Patrick Neton, Joanna Almedia and Memphis Herndon.
“It’s a really good team we played, and we improved on some areas. It was a good challenge, and we’re getting better,” Jim Neton said.
He added that they’ll see Gunnison again in February. The team’s first away games take place Dec. 1 in Grand Junction.
The start of December will also kick off the season for the 10U Cougars as they bring in Durango for their first official game.
Coach Mike Armstrong got a good glimpse of athletes’ capabilities over the past weekend with a Saturday doubleheader in Vernal, Utah. The pre-season games won’t count toward the record, but with 15-1 and 8-2 victories, Armstrong said he likes what he sees.
“They did awesome despite having a smaller team than them and being a very young team,” he said. “About half of my kids have never played a full ice hockey game, and I wanted them to get that feel and pace of a real game.”