Craig Youth Hockey staying sharp leading up to season | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig Youth Hockey staying sharp leading up to season

Players and coaches with Craig Youth Hockey Association gather following a session with Rocky Mountain Hockey School. CYHA games will begin this month.

The ice is primed, the skates are sharpened and the athletes of Craig Youth Hockey Association are set to start a new season of their favorite wintertime sport.

The puck drops this weekend for the CYHA season as the 14 and under Bantam team hosts the Grand Valley Sting at Moffat County Ice Arena at Loudy-Simpson Park.

Low numbers for the visitors may mean more of a scrimmage situation, but Saturday games are the earliest for the program, which will feature more events for its other age groups in the coming weeks and months.

The Bantams, coached by Adam Campbell, will host Steamboat Springs the following weekend, while Cary Herndon's 12U Peewees will get a workout with four home games against Telluride and Durango.

The weekend will also see the 10U Squirts headed by Jim Neton team travel to Glenwood Springs.

While the Bantam, Peewee and Squirt levels of the Craig Cougars remain in the Continental Divide Youth Hockey League, the 18U Midget team sees another shift in organization, moving into the Colorado Recreational Hockey League.

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Coach Tim Knez says the shift — last year part of Continental Divide Colorado Competitive and previously Colorado Prep Hockey League — is something he and players have grown used to, and though they'll see many of the same teams, such as fellow Western Slope group Glenwood and familiar Front Range foes like Hyland Hills.

Knez said he expects greater competition as the eldest CYHA team moves into game time. A recent camp put on by Rocky Mountain Hockey School aided players in working on fundamentals like stick handling, skating and shooting.

"It's all similar to what we've emphasized over the years, the difference is it's someone else teaching them, so they listen a lot better," Knez chuckled. "They've come up here for the last few years, and they do a great job."

With practices starting in October, coaches have moved into more advanced drills to prepare for the season.

The Midgets' first games will be Nov. 18 and 19 on the road against Arvada and Arapahoe. A tournament in Littleton follows during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Midgets will be at home Dec. 2, with a set of games against Utah opponents, which will also include a veteran appreciation event complete with a color guard presentation and a free meal served up for those who served their country.

"We have a lot of high hopes for the team this year," Knez said. "If they keep working hard, showing up for practice, I think they can compete in every game."

The main thing for every age level is to maintain strong numbers, and CYHA is still offering registration for the season. Age is determined by birth year: 10 and under Squirts were born in 2007 and 2008, 12U Peewees 2005 and 2006, 14U Bantams 2003 and 2004 and 18U Midgets 1999 to 2002.

For more information on prices and how to register with CYHA, call 970-629-2057 or visit Craig Youth Hockey Association on Facebook.