Skating toward a championship | CraigDailyPress.com

Skating toward a championship

John Vandelinder

First year Moffat County Bulldog Hockey Club coach Jim Hall is new to the team, but not to the game he loves.

Hall will bring his passion to a team stocked with players from last season.

The Bulldogs return 13 players to a team that won nearly half its league games of a year ago.

“We have a really solid team here,” Hall said. “This core group of guys has great skill. We have a good offense and a good defense. We are just plain solid.”

Captain Scott Smith leads the way for the “core group” of Bulldog veterans. The high school senior tallied 19 goals in 22 league games last season, leading the team with 26 total points.

Freshman CJ Walt and newcomer Colt Criswell should be able to make solid contributions to an already deep and talented roster.

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“Our three captains (Smith, Spencer Wayman and Joel Pomeroy) are really good players,” Hall said. “Criswell is really fast, and Walt is going to be a shining star in this league. We should be really competitive this season.”

Hall preaches defense – his hockey roots started on the defensive side of the blue line – as the key to a successful season. But without scoring, “you can’t win hockey games,” he said.

So, Hall puts the Bulldogs through power play drills, stick handling clinics and works on the break out.

“That’s when you take control of the puck after a turnover,” Hall said, “and you burst out into the other zone. You’re trying to get the numbers in your favor. If you do it well, you can get a lot of 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 breakaways.”

With Moffat County’s depth, Hall plans to run a consistent three lines at the opposition.

“I’d like to think that we will finish as one of the top teams in the league,” Hall said. “We have a lot of unity out there on the ice. These boys are as thick as peanut butter. You jump on one of them, you jump on them all.”

The Bulldogs finished last season with a final record below .500. Hall said practice, experience and breaking the season into smaller segments – like shifts – will pay off for the team.

“If they play shift by shift,” he said, “they’ll have a ‘W’ when they walk off the ice. It should be fun to watch.”

Players to watch:

– Scott Smith (senior) – 19 goals, 7 assists in Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League, 29 goals, 11 assists last season overall.

– Joel Pomeroy (senior) – 5 goals, 5 assists in Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League, 16 goals, 7 assists last season overall.

Teams to watch:

– Gunnison, Durango and Telluride. The three teams have been battling for inner-league superiority for years. One of these three squads likely will be in the hunt for a division title come the end of the year.

Date to circle on the schedule:

– Dec. 1 – Moffat County skates with Telluride in a double-header.

Telluride has been a power in the RMYHL the past few years. This will be an early test for the Bulldogs, with the victor showing the league they are frontrunners in the quest to the Frozen Four.

Team information

– League: Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League

– Coach: Jim Hall

– Assistant: Gene Carson

– Hall with Bulldogs: first season

– 2006-07 season: 9-10-1-2 (RMYHL) 19-20-1-3

(overall)

– Returnees: 13

– Players lost: 2

Roster

– T.J. Anderson

– Jacob Baron

– Nick Bulla

– Colt Criswell

– Tyrell DeGuelle

– Cole DuBois

– Curtis Ellgen

– Ian Forgay

– Mike Lefler

– Joel Pomeroy

– Bryce Ponikvar

– Scott Smith

– Jarrod Stillion

– John Strahan

– Nathan Tomlin

– Spencer Waymen

– Steve Wagner

– C.J. Walt

– Cory Wojtkiewicz

– David Wooden

On the cover

– Senior Scott Smith