Craig men’s team hosting Yampa Valley Invitational this weekend |

Craig men’s team hosting Yampa Valley Invitational this weekend

Nate Waggenspack
The Craig Red Dogs men's hockey team is hosting the 20th annual Yampa Valley Invitational Tournament this weekend at the Moffat County Ice Arena. Ten teams from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are playing for the title in 2014. Craig won its first game against Vernal on Friday, 7-3.
Nate Waggenspack

— In the team’s biggest event of the year, the Craig Red Dogs men’s hockey squad got off to the start it needed.

Playing in the first game of the Yampa Valley Invitational Tournament, the Red Dogs bested the men’s team from Vernal, 7-3, to take one step toward playing for a podium position. They got a hat trick from Colt Criswell and came from behind to win big.

“This team beat us last year, 3-2, and I think that was in the back of our minds tonight,” team captain Greg Neal said Friday. “We turned it around on them, and I thought we controlled the game well.”

Craig trailed, 2-1, in the second period but got two goals, including the go-ahead score from Mike Armstrong on a power play with 4:07 left in the period and less than 30 seconds remaining with the advantage. After Vernal cleared the puck out of its zone, Armstrong picked it up and carried it the length of the ice before placing a wrist shot past the Vernal keeper to give the Red Dogs the lead.

Armstrong also had two assists in the game, including one on a shot he took that was redirected deftly by Conner Pogline into the back of the net.

“He got a tip on that,” Armstrong said. “It was a nice goal.”

The win gave Craig a good start to its home tournament, which now is in its 20th year of operation. Neal has been around for all 20 and is proud of how far the Yampa Valley Invitational has come.

“We started out with four teams 20 years ago,” he said. “Now, we’ve got a 10-team tournament with a waiting list. It’s pretty cool.”

The tournament places five teams each in separate groups, putting them through pool play (playing every team in the group), before the first- and second-place teams from each group will meet for the championship and third-place games, respectively.

Craig’s game also was the start of a busy weekend at the Moffat County Ice Arena. Six games were scheduled for Friday night, with play resuming at 7 a.m. Saturday for 14 more games. Group play will finish late Saturday, and the podium games will take place Sunday morning.

“We’ve got an action-packed night here (Friday) and then a real busy weekend,” Neal said. “It’s a lot of high-caliber hockey with ex-junior players and guys of that level. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or

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