Craig players sharpen skills for coming hockey season | CraigDailyPress.com
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Craig players sharpen skills for coming hockey season

Colton Buchanan switches gears during a scrimmage for the Craig Youth Hockey Association 18 and under team at Moffat County Ice Arena. The Bulldogs get back into league play starting Jan. 7.
Andy Bockelman

With shifts in coaches and league alignments, the members of the Craig Youth Hockey Association’sCraig Youth Hockey Association’s 18 and under Midget team continue to cope with changes year after year. But, like the ice on which they skate, the Moffat County Bulldogs stay solid. 18 and under Midget team continue to cope with changes year after year. But, like the ice on which they skate, the Moffat County Bulldogs stay solid.

Craig Youth Hockey Association’s 18 and under Midget team continue to cope with changes year after year. But, like the ice on which they skate, the Moffat County Bulldogs stay solid.

The season is underway for hockey teams in Northwest Colorado, and the Craig high school-age squad is no exception. Unlike other winter sports that operate through Moffat County High School as sanctioned by Colorado High School Activities Association, the Midgets operate strictly through CYHA.

Even so, like other levels of local hockey, the network of teams stays competitive. The Bulldogs will enter a newly created league this season called Continental Divide Colorado CompetitiveContinental Divide Colorado Competitive..

Continental Divide Colorado Competitive.

CDCC includes familiar Western Slope teams such as Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Summit and Telluride, as well as Front Range groups like Hyland Hills and Arvada.

The lineup of opponents isn’t an enormous tweak for Craig players, though another change is more immediate.

Tim Knez serves as the head coach this season, the third coach in as many years.

“It’s a very tough factor, and each coach has had a different coaching style they want to do,” he said of the turnover. “It plays a huge role in the kids’ expectations of what they’re supposed to do.”

Last year’s coach, Todd Bellio, will also be assisting Knez.

Players have been practicing heavily since the Moffat County Ice Arena opened for the winter, and between small skating and shooting drills and scrimmage situations, the Bulldogs have been put to the test for game time earlier than last year.

A tournament in Glenwood during the Thanksgiving weekend — that included a win by a lengthy shootoutthat included a win by a lengthy shootout — and a mid-December doubleheader at Summit have athletes’ skills sharpened as they head into a full league schedule after the new year begins. — and a mid-December doubleheader at Summit have athletes’ skills sharpened as they head into a full league schedule after the new year begins.

that included a win by a lengthy shootout — and a mid-December doubleheader at Summit have athletes’ skills sharpened as they head into a full league schedule after the new year begins.

“We need our mental game in aspect, and we can compete with the teams in our league from what I’ve seen so far,” Knez said. “I’m hoping they keep growing as hockey players and young adults and keep growing this program for this year and next year.”

Grady Anson, an MCHS sophomore, agreed with Knez’s assessment that players keeping their heads in the game will be key.

“I think we’re ready, and I think we’ll do good,” he said.

Among those on the roster this season are four MCHS seniors, Wyatt Bellio, Jadon Coutts, Zach Soron and Kaitlyn Shrode.

Shrode has played on multiple teams within the past year, such as Colorado Select Girls Hockey Association, a 19U AAA team that qualified to play in the national championships earlier this yearsuch as Colorado Select Girls Hockey Association, a 19U AAA team that qualified to play in the national championships earlier this year..

such as Colorado Select Girls Hockey Association, a 19U AAA team that qualified to play in the national championships earlier this year.

With her sights set on playing hockey in college or other levels, Shrode is focusing heavily on high performance in the sport and hopes her teammates have the same mindframe.

“I think if we work hard enough, we’ll win games, and I think that comes with more work ethic,” she said.

Though it’s not going to be her last time on the ice — at least, if she has anything to say about it — this season is one Shrode plans to cherish.

“It’s senior year, and I’m so glad I’m spending it here instead of somewhere else,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to say goodbye. It’s been really fun, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

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


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