Craig Youth Hockey Squirts gain goals galore in home opener
Like a rink fresh from the latest pass by the Zamboni, things were going smoothly in the first home games for Craig Youth Hockey Association’s 10 and under Squirts.
The Cougars swept the Durango Steamers in a Saturday doubleheader at Moffat County Ice Arena, as the Craig team gained wins of 7-5 and 8-3.
The opening match was a thriller that came down to the final minute as a tied-up game had spectators on the edge of their seat.
Eric Warrior gained his fourth goal on a breakaway with less than 30 seconds remaining, a go-ahead score that served to light a newfound fire under his teammates as well, as Jaryd Preston added the squad’s seventh goal off the assist from Ellie Schell and Tristan Smith.
“It felt really good,” Warrior said with a smile after the post-game celebration calmed down.
Boston Armstrong put in the Cougars’ other two goals in a game that he saw as a great experience for the group.
“We really did good at keeping up with them and back-checking,” he said. “We’re going to keep working hard.”
Boston’s dad, coach Mike Armstrong, said he saw improvement across the board for players in their first true competition, including some brand-new to the sport. As some are still mastering skating skills, their stamina showed.
“Legs really started playing a factor, and conditioning for our kids is a big thing,” Mike said.
Cougar goalie Quinn Allen added 31 saves to the effort in the first game and had 29 in the subsequent match.
“Quinn really came together at the right time for us,” Mike said.
Warrior wasn’t satisfied with his earlier scoring spree and put five in the net in the second game, with Preston getting two goals and Boston one.
Nearly every member of the roster had a goal or assist in one or both of the games. Kolby Smith added six assists, four for Preston, three for Schell, and one each for Warrior, Smith, Eli Francone, Tristen Davidson and Tristan Hedman.
Elsewhere among CYHA teams, Saturday road games in Grand Junction for the 12U Peewees proved tricky as the Coyotes took early leads in both of their games to control the pace in 6-2 and 6-3 defeats. Hayden Urroz, Patrick Neton, Ryan Booker, Grant Sis and Logan Durham each scored once during the day. Keepers Caden Bugay and Aiden Schamanski combined for 37 saves.
The Coyote 14U Bantams visited Craig Sunday morning to skirmish with the Cougars. As the top team of the Continental Divide Youth Hockey League, Grand Junction proved a tough test with a 9-3 win over Craig in the first game, the Cougars already trailing 5-1 heading into the third period. An 8-3 defeat that followed wasn’t much different.
Across the two games, Brant Gutierrez had three goals, Chayton McDonald two and Carter Behrman one, while Dylan Herndon gained 31 saves.
While younger teams had their ups and downs, the 18U Midget team improved to 4-0 Sunday with back-to-back victories in Denver, 6-3 and 4-2 over Arvada.
Another good day for defense saw goalie Jack Doane notch 14 saves in each match. On the other side of the puck, AJ Barber recorded a hat trick in the first game as well as a fourth goal in the latter half of the doubleheader.
Wyatt Boatright scored thrice across the stretch with Clay Durham and Colton Lodato also adding to the Bulldog tally.
The Midgets have the coming weekend off in terms of competition, as younger teams all hit the road. Squirts meet West Elk and Pikes Peak Catamount in Gunnison, Peewees head to Telluride and Bantams split the difference in travel, facing West Elk in Grand Junction.