Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Puck drops on 30th Suns hockey season

Two games at McCall this weekend

Express Staff Writer

First-year Sun Valley Suns skaters include, from left, left wing Justin Cook from New York State, goalie John Bidon from Minnesota, defenseman Normunds Krepss from Latvia, defenseman Mark Belanger from Duluth, right wing Ryan Sullivan from Duluth and homegrown forward Bryan Winkler from Hailey. Photo by Willy Cook

Six new players have joined the Sun Valley Suns men's senior hockey team for its 30th season of competition, which opens this coming weekend against the defending USA Hockey 30-and-over national champions McCall Mountaineers, in McCall.

Although he will be missing a few skaters with this weekend's early start to the season, sixth-year Suns head coach Chris Benson (69-34-3) said, "Our core players are solid and we have some talented new players. The defense should be real solid, and we have two good targets (goalies)."

The goalies are last season's #1 netminder Ryan Thomson (7-4), a second-year Suns backstop, and newcomer John Bidon from St. Paul, Minn. Bidon is a good-sized 6-2, 230-pounder from Cretinderham Hall High School who should be a good contrast with Thomson's compact size.

Sun Valley (12-12 last winter, 2-6 away) came up with a fine young pairing on defense last winter in New Englanders Eric Demment, 27, and Chris Warrington, 26. They return as assistants to the new Suns captain John Stevens, a 10th-year forward who is 11th on the all-time scoring list.

Former Williams College skater Demment (7 goals, 7 assists) likes to score—he's already got 13 goals and 22 assists in two seasons—while Brown University blueliner Warrington (10 assists last winter) is more stay-at-home and complements Demment well.

Joining Demment and Warrington the blue line are veteran Ivars Muzis, second-year Josh Jacobson and two new defenders—30-year-old Normunds Krepss from Latvia and Mark Belanger, 23, from Duluth. Krepss played for the 1995 Latvian Junior National team and Belanger is a 5-11, 190-pound right shot from the Iron Range.

Up front, eighth-year center Jamie Ellison, 32, is back from last winter's shoulder surgery. He's #5 on the all-time scoring list with 101 goals and 171 assists. In only six seasons, 30-year-old Vilnis Nikolaisons from Latvia has produced night in and night out and is #7 with 102 goals and 164 assists. Nikolaisons (16-20) won the team's scoring title for the 2003-04 season.

A pleasant addition for the Suns last winter was Ryan Enrico, second in scoring with 13 goals and 21 assists.

With small, quick skaters like Nikolaisons, Ellison and Enrico on the ice, the Suns aren't going to scare opponents with their size on the forward line. But the forwards are generally speedy, and Sun Valley has added quickness, speed and youth up front.

They're homegrown, too.

For instance, Scott Winkler, Ryan McDonald and Bryan Winkler have all grown up playing junior hockey on weekend days and then watching the Suns skate at night. And they're now Suns players, genuine products of the Sun Valley Junior Hockey Association.

He didn't play last winter, but Scott Winkler, 23, will be entering his fourth year as a Suns forward and he's made big contributions to the tune of 20 goals and 27 assists over that time.

Ryan McDonald, 21, and Scott's brother Bryan Winkler, 20, skated at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut. McDonald played Junior A last winter at Lowell, Mass. and skated two games, scoring two goals, for the Suns.

Newcomers include left shot Justin Cook, 23, who logged two years at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, and Ryan Sullivan, 23, a Duluth right shot who played some Junior A hockey in Butte, Mt. and came out here with his friend Mark Belanger.

Besides captain Stevens, other familiar faces looking forward to the upcoming 18-game Suns schedule are Paul Baranzelli (44 goals in three years), Frank Salvoni and John Miller.

The Suns play McCall Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4 at 7 p.m. at Manchester Ice and Event Centre in McCall. Tickets are $8 adults, $5 for 12-and-under. Then, McCall is the opponent for the first Suns home series, over New Year's weekend.

Home-and-home series with McCall and the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose will be highlights—and the Suns have some payback in mind. The Moose, leading 22-9-1 in the seven-year series, went 7-1 against the Suns last winter. And McCall swept the last four games played between the teams.

Coach Benson is looking forward to January as a proving ground. "We probably have three solid weekends at home in a row," he said. And then, the Suns (484-187-28 all-time record) will jump in the cars and have a two-game trip to Lake Tahoe Jan. 21-22.

Sun Valley Suns Roster for 2004-05

Listed are player names, ages, years with the 2004-05 Sun Valley Suns team, hometowns and previous hockey teams. Average age of this year's team is 28.4, a half year younger than last year.


Ryan Thomson, 26, 2nd year...Flagstaff, Ariz....New England Coll./Anchorage Aces

David Stone, 36, 11th year...Ketchum...S.V. Junior Hockey Association

John Bidon, 24, 1st year...St. Paul, Minn...Cretinderham Hall HS/Juniors


Kris Webster, 31, 11th year...Ketchum...S.V. Junior Hockey Association

Ivars Muzis, 31, 7th year...Riga, Latvia...Juniors Riga

Eric Demment, 27, 3rd year...Etna, N.H...Williams College/France

Chris Warrington, 26, 2nd year...Slatersville, R.I...Brown University

Josh Jacobson, 27, 2nd year...Mound, Minn...Hibbing Community College

Normunds Krepss, 30, 1st year...Riga, Latvia...Latvia Junior National Team

Mark Belanger, 23, 1st year...Duluth, Minn...Jr. Gold Midgets


Chris Benson, 37, 15th year...Cottage Grove, Minn...Univ. of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.)

John S. Miller, 41, 12th year...Darien, Conn...New Hampton Academy

John Stevens, 32, 10th year...Anchorage, Ak...Univ. of Scranton

Jamie Ellison, 32, 9th year...Anchorage, Ak...Northern Arizona/Herferd Devils (Germ.)

Vilnis Nikolaisons, 30, 7th year...Riga, Latvia...Juniors Riga

Caleb Baukol, 35, 6th year...Great Falls/Missoula, Mt...Univ. of Montana/WSU

Paul Baranzelli, 24, 4th year...Virginia, Minn...Junior B, Minnesota

Scott Winkler, 23, 4th year...Sun Valley...SV Jr. Hockey/SUNY-Brockport

Frank Salvoni, 36, 3rd year...Natick, Mass...Avon (Ct.) Old Farms/Lake Forest College

Ryan Enrico, 24, 2nd year...Hoboken, N.J...New England College (Henniker, N.H.)

Ryan McDonald, 21, 2nd year...Sun Valley...Avon Old Farms/Lowell (Mass.) Jrs.

Justin Cook, 23, 1st year...Hamilton, N.Y...St. Anselm (N.H) College

Ryan Sullivan, 23, 1st year...Duluth, Minn...Butte (Mt.) Junior As

Bryan Winkler, 20, 1st year...Sun Valley...SV Junior Hockey/Avon Old Farms


Head coach—Chris Benson (sixth year, 69-34-3).

General manager—John Burke

Financial officer—Janine Burke

Director of Officials—Bobby Noyes

Team doctor—John Maxfield

Security—Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments

Merchandise—Sun Valley Sunsets and Fury

Captain—John Stevens

Assistants—Eric Demment, Chris Warrington

Sun Valley Suns 2004-05 Ice Hockey Schedule

Sun Valley's amateur men's hockey team, entering its 30th season of competition, has a 18-game schedule including 12 games on home ice and 6 games away from home. All 2-game home series are played Friday and Saturday nights at Sun Valley Skating Center.


December 3-4...McCall Mountaineers (Away)

Tuesday, December 28...Future/Past Suns Exhibition (Home)

December 31-January 1...McCall Mountaineers (Home)

January 7-8...Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose (Home)

January 14-15...Philadelphia Independence (Home)

January 21-22...Tahoe Freeze (Away)

January 28-29...To be announced (Home)

February 11-12...Tahoe Freeze (Home)

February 18-19...Michigan Jets (Home)

March 3-4...Siskiyou (Ore.) Summits (Home)

March 18-19...Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose (Away)

NOTES—All home games at Sun Valley Skating Center begin at 7 p.m. There are three 20-minute periods. Games last about two-and-a-half hours. Ticket prices are $6 general admission, $3 for kids ages 12-and-under.

The December 28 exhibition will be a benefit for Sun Valley Junior Hockey.....Suns players will have their annual Volunteer Aid Station at the Boulder Mountain Ski Tour Feb. 5, 2005.....Then, during the Tahoe Freeze series Feb. 11-12, there will be a sledge hockey exhibition as part of the first-ever Veteran's Winter Disabled Games in Sun Valley.

Spectators are asked not to bring alcoholic beverages into the arena. Refreshments and food are sold in the rink. Parking will be allowed in the two lots just to the western side of the rink, but no parking will be permitted on Dollar Road. In addition, spectators can park in the main Sun Valley parking lot by the village.

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