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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Feb 5 - 12, 2002


Suns show Moose who’s the boss

Emotional 9-2 win sets the tone

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley Suns established a couple of things last weekend during their well-played two-game series with arch-rival Jackson Hole Moose.

The Suns and Moose didn’t much care for each other in last weekend’s hotly-competitive series. But opponents T.J. Thomas, 26, of Eveleth, Minn. (left) and first-year Suns center Tom Forti, 23, of Hibbing, Minn. had a friendly contest going all weekend—winning faceoffs for beers. Express photo by Willy Cook

First of all, the Suns are deeper in forwards and defensemen and have two solid goalies and are simply the better hockey team in 2002.

The emotional 9-2 Suns victory Friday was a great celebration at Sun Valley Skating Center. Seven different Suns poured in goals as the Suns silenced the trash-talking Moose 8-1 in the second and third periods.

Only a hot goalie, big 6-2, 220-pound Minnesotan Ross Boldt, stood between the Suns and a weekend sweep Saturday. Jackson Hole preserved a 2-0 second-period lead and won 2-1 as Boldt (44 saves) stopped 21 of 22 shots in the third.

"We dominated. Even though we lost, we out-shot them two-to-one. That says a lot about our team. Their goalie stood on his head—and a hot goalie can control the game," said Suns captain Chris Benson.

The other notable thing about the weekend was the crowd support. Banging the plexi-glass, responding to important faceoffs and bringing down the house when goals were scored, home fans loved the Suns.

Friday’s crowd of 600 (400 paid) was the best of the season, exceeding the New Year’s Eve weekend against the Seattle Indians. Saturday was nearly as good, with 500 spectators.

"The noise of the crowd is definitely beneficial when we’re out there playing," said Benson.

Although the Suns (15-1) had their franchise record 22-game winning streak snapped by the Moose (15-4) Saturday, they accomplished their major goal—beating the Moose.

The Suns had lost eight consecutive games to the Moose by a 63-35. But the Idaho sextet turned the tide last weekend—outscoring the Moose 10-4, outshooting them 90-53 and out-pointing the Moose 28-9.

After killing off three Moose power-play chances in Friday’s first period and settling for a 1-1 tie, the Suns exploded for three power-play goals and a 5-2 lead in the second. When it was over, the Suns had scored seven unanswered goals.

The Moose were barely able to get the puck out of their zone because of relentless fore-checking by the Suns.

Benson said, "We had a 2-1-2 forecheck and banged them as much as we could. With the zone coverage we were able to cover their wings so our defensemen could step up. And a couple of bounces went our way."

John Stevens scored two big second-period goals before being tossed out of the game. His replacement, Ben Stauffer, scored two in the third—after Ivars Muzis set the stage with an early shorthanded goal.

Wing Scott Winkler, a Sun Valley junior hockey product, made significant contributions with a power play goal in the second period and a penalty-killing steal that led to the Muzis shorthanded goal in the third.

A total 79 penalty minutes were whistled Friday and Moose goalie Marc Morningstar, a former Suns player, was ejected for third-man-in.

"After going 0-8 against them the last couple of years, they had been doing a lot of rapping," said Benson about the Moose. "They weren’t doing a lot of rapping Friday night."

The Moose prevailed Saturday because of former Warroad Lakers goalie Boldt and also because of Jackson’s ability to neutralize the first forward line of Vilnis Nikolaisons, Jamie Ellison and Luke Smith.

Smith, who last skated for the Suns at the Utah Winter Games Jan. 6, had been tied up with business in Park City, where he lives. He wasn’t the same Smith who scored 8 goals in his first seven games.

"Luke’s hands were stony," said Benson. "That line definitely had their chances."

The Moose mustered virtually no offense and spent much of Saturday’s game in a defensive shell, icing the puck and trying to ice the game. Two of Jackson’s four goals were a direct result of bad Suns clearing passes. "We made some bad decisions that gave them a few goals," said Benson.

Defenseman Kris Webster broke up the shutout when he took a centering pass from center Tom Forti and beat Boldt with four minutes left.

In the five-year rivalry, the Moose still lead 11-6-1 but the Suns will have a chance to cut into that when they visit Jackson Hole March 22-23.

Will the Suns go to the USA Hockey national tournament in Wisconsin in April? Definitely not, Benson said, but maybe next year.

"Financially we’re trying to get ahead this year and if we get a good return of our players for next year, we will go, but we’ll know before the beginning of the season," he said.

Benson added, "We’ll be doing well if we can average 300 fans for our final 12 home games."

The Suns have this weekend off, and resume Feb. 15-16 against the Michigan Jets—the first of four straight weekend series.

"I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t sweep all four series," said Benson. "We’re playing fundamentally sound hockey."

Check the Express web site for updated season statistics and a more complete hockey summary from last weekend.




The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.