Moffat County Bulldog hockey vexes visitors in home opener
Steam was wafting off athletes’ bodies Saturday as they came off the chilly surface of Moffat County Ice Arena after a hard game’s work.
Yes, it was due to body heat, but given the intensity local players were showing, there may have been a little more to it.
A revolving roster among three teams the past weekend made it an unusual experience for the members of the Craig Youth Hockey Association 18 and under Midget team, yet no matter how many adjustments, they coped nonetheless. The Moffat County Bulldogs went 3-1 during a series of four games Saturday and Sunday, hosting Front Range squad Hyland Hills and the Capitals of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The three groups each faced off among each other, but thanks to Hyland Hills’ lack of available players, the Dogs agreed not to dub the matches league competitions within Colorado Recreational Hockey League.
MoCo lent the Jaguars defenseman Logan Knez to help balance the benches for the first home game, which helped Hyland Hills get a good start, perhaps better than the Bulldogs expected.
“I don’t know why we started out so slow, but finally they started forechecking the puck, started passing and playing positional hockey,” coach Tim Knez said. “They really stepped up after that first period.”
Once Moffat County got into a groove, they didn’t leave it, which team captain Jesse Earle attributed to persistence.
“Rebounds were a big thing for sure,” Earle said. “We were also playing really aggressive on defense on the outside.”
AJ Barber’s assaults on goal paid off as he bounced the puck off the goalie, and fellow forward Clay Durham knocked it in with the second-chance score twice in a row
After being credited with the assists, Barber garnered goals of his own from there as he continued to race around the rink, with Moffat winning it 7-5.
“I wasn’t necessarily trying to be the fastest guy on the ice. Just trying to be a team player and make opportunities,” Barber said. “Just gotta get there.”
The Dogs were without one of their assets on offense — after pulling double duty this season, Wyatt Boatright suffered a broken leg while competing for Steamboat Springs.
“He slid into the boards and fractured the bone,” Tim Knez said, adding Boatright will hopefully be cleared to play again by early February.
Even so, they weren’t hurting for talent with freshmen Durham and Garett Stockman, as well as Brant Gutierrez and Garrett Anson playing up from the 14U Bantam team.
No sooner had Bulldog goalie Jack Doane pulled off his jersey after coming off the ice than the steam poured from his head and shoulders.
“It’s a little hot in those pads,” Doane said with a chuckle. “The end of that game, we really started to get our confidence back. Our first and second periods, we were still figuring things out, but we came back big.”
Moffat got right back on the ice and were joined by several volunteers from Hyland Hills to face off with the Capitals, a 16U team in Wyoming. The adjustment in the lineup and the lack of a break ultimately did in the Bulldogs as they fell 5-4 in overtime.
Still, the home team had the final laugh Sunday when they met the same teams all over again, beating Hyland 9-3 and Cheyenne 6-3.
Bulldog coaches recently confirmed the dates for the remainder of the season.
Moffat County, now 7-1, will play Jan. 5 and 6 in Greeley, followed by both Jan. 26 and 27 and Feb. 2 and 3 against Arapahoe with location yet to be determined.
On Feb. 10, the Dogs will be back on the Front Range against both Arvada and Lafayette, while home games are scheduled against Northern Colorado Feb. 23 and 24.
Craig Youth Hockey Association will host its annual New Year’s Eve party Dec. 31.
The evening runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at Moffat County Ice Arena at Loudy-Simpson Park with open skating, music, prizes and food.
Admission is $5 for skating and $5 for the rest of the party. A special for large families is $40.
For more information, call 970-629-2380.
One inning can define an entire game of baseball, and though Moffat County High School was on both sides of that truth Saturday, the Bulldogs’ first conference matchup ultimately went their way.