Moffat County Bulldog hockey hitting hard, early with combined season
For the Craig Press
With the rest of their fellow athletes at Moffat County High School still in practice mode, the oldest members of Craig Youth Hockey Association have already gotten quite a few games under their belts, with still many more to come.
The Moffat County Bulldogs hockey team as part of CYHA has an abundant roster this season with a combined lineup of high school and middle school-age players.
Traditionally, the squad consists of athletes aged 15 to 18 at the top level, but with only a handful of kids aged 13 and 14 at the Bantam level, the two teams are combined.
“We don’t have enough for an all-Bantam team, but they’re doing pretty well,” said coach Cary Herndon. “We’ve got some speed, always got speed, now it’s just a matter of getting it dialed in. We’ve got some young kids and gotta get them up to par.”
Herndon is in his first year coaching at the older kids — with son Memphis and daughter Dylan both in the lineup — following predecessor John Doane.
“I followed behind Doane for two years, and then his son graduated, so I took over,” Herndon said. “I’ve got a lot of help from Tim Knez, and the parents are awesome, plus I’ve got one of our old kids helping me on the bench. It’s nice, I’ve got backing.”
As is common for CYHA — which is a club hockey organization rather than a team that exists under the auspices of MCHS and Colorado High School Activities Association — the top-level team will have minimal home matches this season, though they will benefit from joining in a fall schedule Colorado Recreational Hockey League that will extend into the winter.
“It officially starts beginning of November, then you play through the winter and into January. Then they reseed us and we start playing other teams for the final bracket,” Herndon said.
The schedule will be considerably more full than last season, though the downside is facing off against teams who have had plentiful prep time.
“A lot of things slowed us down, and we’d only been on the ice for two weeks before our first game. Some of them have been playing since the summer, but our kids can hang with them,” he said.
MCHS junior Garrett Anson noted he could tell a difference in the team’s first set of games.
“A lot of the teams have been on the ice for more than a month, and we kind of just got out here,” Anson said. “We’ve got a lot of veteran players, so that’s nice.”
Three weeks into November, the Bulldogs are 2-5-1, ending a weekend series on the Front Range with a 2-0 win over Fort Collins on Nov. 21 following back-to-back losses to Arvada.
Though their home games at Loudy-Simpson Park Ice Arena will be limited — with tentative games set for early December and a series in mid-February in a still-evolving schedule — MoCo started the season with a 1-2 weekend against Hyland Hills, which brought three full teams to Craig Nov. 6 and 7.
While the Bulldogs fell to the Jaguars’ Orange and Black squads, they earned their first victory in a 7-6 game that came down to the final minute.
The Jags led 3-0 going into the second period before a successful penalty shot by Garret Stockman got the Bulldogs going.
“Seemed like it was able to break the ice for us,” Stockman said of the score.
Stockman, Kyle Hoag, and Baryn Suessmeier are the seniors for the team, which has regularly seen middle school athletes play up, though that dynamic is even pronounced this season.
“I’m trying to have fun and help out the little kids and help them get better,” Suessmeier said, adding that as a defenseman, his strategy has been to hold back and aid the goaltender as much as possible.
He noted that after a very sporadic season in 2020-21, he’s looking forward to a more consistent schedule.
“It’s going to be a lot better this season since we’ll have a lot more games,” Suessmeier said.
As someone who’s been playing at the 18U level since before he was in high school, Stockman is especially excited to get back to normal and also aid the newer teammates.
“We’ve got some good games booked up and we’re trying to figure things out with the younger guys with us and try to get everything going,” he said. “I’m trying to be a leader for these younger guys and help them out so we can be a good team this year.”
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