The addition of a Craig team was just one highlight of the adult recreational hockey league this season.
And the Moffat County players wasted little time going to the front of the league, winning the regular season with 23 points.
"No one predicted they would do as well as they are," league organizer Peter Van De Carr said. "They have dominated the league."
The Craig Red Dogs finished the regular season 11-3-1 and open the playoffs against the Backdoor Sports Mad Dogs at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Howelsen Ice Arena.
Backdoor Sports picked up its first win of the season in its final regular season game. The Mad Dogs, Van De Carr's team, have been near the top of the league until this season. But his draft is designed to help teams move up in the standings.
"The last-place team gets the first pick," he said. "It's in the interest of making the league equal. One of the goals I have is to have as much parity as possible. The more close games and tight races, the better."
Tagged "The Sunday Night Game," the adult hockey league holds its games in Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat and in Loudy-Simpson Ice Arena in Craig.
"It's really cool to have two towns involved," Van De Carr said.
The playoffs begin Sunday with a single-elimination round. The top three teams then will play a round-robin format tournament, with the top two teams advancing to the championships at 8:45 p.m. March 17 at Howelsen Ice Arena.
Van De Carr said people would be surprised at the level of hockey being played in a community this size.
"In this town, everyone is a jock," he said. "We have guys in the league that are ex-NFL players and guys that played juniors, which is one level below Division I hockey. Over half the people in the league are just good athletes and not necessarily good hockey players. That makes it pretty darn exciting."
Minglewood Timbers opens against Westside Auto at 10 p.m. Sunday, and KFMU and the Bruins are scheduled to play at 6:15 p.m. Sunday in Craig, though Van De Carr said that might change.
The round-robin tournament begins March 10 and runs through March 13.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org