Moffat County Bulldog hockey builds bigger bench with blend of age groups

Clay Durham takes a puck drop for the Moffat County Bulldogs hockey team in the 2018-19 season. The group, part of Craig Youth Hockey Association, blended the 18U and 14U age groups for this year.
File Photo

Craig Youth Hockey Association is hardly unfamiliar with facing a season with a smaller roster, though this year a handful of players will be fast-tracked more than ever into heavier competition.

CYHA’s 18 and under Midget team is wrapping up its early fall season after a series of games throughout October and November.

As part of the Colorado Recreational Hockey League, the Moffat County Bulldogs have been traveling to the Front Range week after week with opponents such as Hyland Hills, Arapahoe and more in the Denver area.

The competition has been steady for the group, which faced a limited number of high school-aged athletes, leading coaches to roll the 18U team in with the 14U Bantams, who were also on the small side.

“We’ve got a very young team this year. Last year was a very senior-laden team. This year, the age group is pretty much 12 to 18,” said coach John Doane.

Doane and Cary Herndon head up the group, while former coach Tim Knez has also aided with practices, as have CYHA alumni Zach Soron and Garrett Ferguson.

While practice hasn’t been a struggle for the hard workers, the amount of travel time has taken its toll a bit.

“We are the road warriors at this point,” Doane said. “They’re good, good kids with good work ethic. We got beat pretty handily by one team, but other than that, we’ve been in it in a lot of games, learning how to win, just getting used to the speed and style of play.”

Besides returning Bulldog players Clay Durham, Garett Stockman, Jack Doane, and Brant Gutierrez — the latter of whom also played up an age group last year — middle and high school athletes Forrest Siminoe, Memphis Herndon, Ryan Booker, Alex Colby, Logan Durham, Zane Durham, Baryn Suessmeier, Kaden Bugay and Dylan Herndon are also in the mix.

CRHL’s new no-check policy for the league due to concern over head injuries worked out well for the group of mixed ages.

“It’s still good hockey, still physical contact, just not a lot of heavy hitting,” John Doane said. “That’s the reason we were able to do it. I didn’t want an 18-year-old against a 12-year-old who gets splattered.”

The Bulldogs have hit the ice for seven games so far — with results ranging from a 5-0 shutout by the Northern Colorado Junior Eagles to an 11-1 defeat to the Rampage of Monument — though things truly began clicking by Nov. 17 as the team took its first win, 4-2, against Greeley.

Stockman scored twice, with one goal each for Colby and Booker, as well as assists by Clay Durham and Bugay.

In the crease, Jack Doane earned 21 saves during the W.

The fall season wraps with games in Littleton and Centennial Dec. 6 and 7, with the Bulldogs still working out the winter schedule.

John Doane said the fall has been a learning experience, while the winter will see them buckle down for more amid the CRHL slate.

“They’ve got a lot of potential. Every week the kids have made strides to be better,” he said.

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