Suns (24-2) spoil
Moose’s finale 5-4
franchise win record
Express Staff Writer
two great hockey games—two rivals flying up and down the ice, fighting
tooth-and-nail for territory and writing their little morality plays
before packed houses at the foot of Snow King Ski Area.
defenseman Kris Webster (left) wards off Jackson Hole’s Gregg
Gripentrog during Friday’s 3-2 Suns loss. Gripentrog scored twice, and
Webster was ejected in a third-period fight that gave him a nice bloody
nose to show his in-laws in Florida. Express photo by Willy Cook
at stake when the Sun Valley Suns and Jackson Hole Moose clashed Friday
and Saturday at the Wyoming resort. Each team had its own objective, but
both played for one overriding goal—respect.
hoped two wins over the Suns would help the fifth-year franchise reach 20
wins and salvage a frustrating winter that began with the lofty goal of
playing in the USA Hockey Senior Nationals for a third straight year.
verge of establishing 27-year franchise records for single-season wins and
goals, the Suns have blended young recruits with hard-working veterans and
answered nearly every challenge in an outstanding 2001-02 campaign.
Suns hadn’t won a game in Jackson Hole for five years and had been
outscored 57-29 in the eight-game winless skid at Snow King dating to
1997. They had tolerated two years of Moose trash talking and wanted
Miller, who played hurt and played one of his best games Saturday, looks for the tip in front of Moose goalie Bob “Howie” Carruth during the 5-4 Suns win. Miller scored a power-play goal. Watching are linemates Luke Smith (left) and Joe
Lawson. Express photo by Willy Cook
got it Saturday night with the rooting help of 75 fans who yelled down the
500-plus Moose faithful.
with composure they lacked in Friday’s 3-2 loss, the Suns parlayed four
power-play goals into a 5-4 win that ruined the Moose season finale.
junior hockey product Scott Winkler scored the game winner, his 15th goal,
midway through the third.
(24-2), with four games to play, thus tied the team mark of 24 wins
achieved twice, in 1979 and 1980.
player/coach Chris Benson said, "The Moose had been talking about
sweeping us and reaching 20 wins. We wanted to prevent that. And now we
want to sweep our final four games and finish up with 28 wins for the
was a blow for the Moose (19-8), the 2000 national runner-up team that had
bragged about winning a national title in October before player losses and
injuries took their toll and caused Jackson Hole to abandon plans to
travel to Wisconsin for nationals.
five-year rivalry the Moose lead 12-7-1 but the Suns have made inroads—going
2-2 this season—after two years of lopsided losses to the Moose.
called Friday’s 3-2 Suns loss something of a debacle. "We were flat
after not skating in two weeks," he said.
Suns players were a little intimidated by the large, rowdy Jackson Hole
crowd, the referee had a quick whistle and Suns veterans Jamie Ellison and
Kris Webster didn’t help by getting thrown out of the game for fighting.
goalie Matt Gershater (38 saves) was simply great. His goaltending, the
reliable Suns penalty killing and two individual goal scoring efforts by
Winkler and Webster kept the Suns close.
Smith hit the post early in the third period in an excellent attempt to
tie the game 2-2. Seconds later Jackson Hole’s Gregg Gripentrog beat the
Suns defense down the right wing and whipped home a wrist shot for a 3-1
said, "For the most part we played well defensively all weekend. But
we had a little chat after Friday’s game about how to conduct ourselves.
we talked about improving our power play. Jackson Hole’s penalty killers
were overloading the side with the puck, the strong side. On Saturday
night we tried to work it down low, then out high, to get their box to
move and get the puck in the alleys."
surprisingly the Suns fell behind 1-0 Saturday. They’ve played 26 games,
and opponents have scored first 13 times in the 2001-02 campaign.
Suns scored on their first of nine power plays.
Forti fought off two Moose in the corner and sent the puck back to Paul
Baranzelli on the left point. Baranzelli wasted no time, with big Luke
Smith standing in front of the goalie. He blasted a slap shot for his 17th
the Moose armor first surfaced when former Suns skater Bryan Korpi lost
his composure and was ejected for spearing with just 28 seconds left in
the first period.
given a nice, long five-minute power play, struck quickly in the second
when power play quarterback Vilnis Nikolaisons rifled a pass across the
middle of the ice and found John Stevens barreling in from the point.
Stevens scored, 2-1.
a couple of bad bounces, the Suns might have scored a couple more on the
long power play. They were passing well, the best in a month, invading the
Moose box and causing tons of problems.
tied it 2-2 with a slap shot, but the hosts gave it back when former Suns
defenseman Wade Clarke went off for elbowing.
Jacket" winner John Miller, playing with a sore shoulder, faked a
cross-ice pass to Baranzelli and beat goalie Bob "Howie" Carruth
with a slap shot for another power-play goal and a 3-2 lead.
two-goal lead was a luxury in a rivalry that has tightened up considerably
this winter. Four of the last five games between the two teams have been
settled by one goal.
Suns built a 4-2 cushion with their only even-strength goal—an excellent
combination that started when Chas Riopel hurdled over a Moose defender’s
stick, fell down and then got back up with sheer determination.
Riopel went hard into the corner boards with a Moose and freed up the
puck. Center Joe Lawson was right there to pick it up. With one glance
Lawson threw a pass in the slot to wing Chris Benson, who buried it past
formidable foe, the Moose battled back for a 4-4 tie two minutes into the
third period. But that’s all they got, because Suns goalie James Moskos
(40 saves) was equal to every test, making big save after big save.
crack in the Moose armor appeared when 6-3, 190-pound native Minnesotan
Carruth was thrown out of the game for going after Miller. "Johnny
gave him a little whack and Howie just snapped. It was stupid," said
it was the second time in four games between the two teams that a Moose
goalie has been tossed, first Marc Morningstar in Sun Valley, then Carruth
in Jackson Hole.
needed only 15 seconds into the power play to score the eventual winner.
It came, fittingly, from Winkler, who felt so bad after coughing up a pass
that helped the Moose win 2-1 in Sun Valley Feb. 2.
was pretty happy about the win," said Benson. "Both of our
goalies played real well. And it was nice to have a lot of fans
Suns try to break the franchise’s all-time single-season win record
Friday and Saturday, March 29-30 at 7 p.m. when the St. Paul (Minn.)
Turtles come to Sun Valley Skating Center.
the Suns (17-6-2) capped a season-ending seven-game winning streak with
12-3 and 5-4 wins over the Turtles.