Fourth-year forward Paul Baranzelli had the three-goal hat trick and second-year goalie Ryan Thomson was huge between the pipes for the Sun Valley Suns Friday at McCall.
The result was a 7-3 Suns victory over the Manchester Mountaineers in the opening game of the 30th Suns men's ice hockey season. Thomson saw 40 shots and made 37 big saves.
For the weekend, Thomson saved 73 of 80 shots he faced.
Baranzelli scored a pair of goals helping the Suns to a 3-2 lead after one period, then the Suns tallied four unanswered goals in the third period breaking a 3-3 tie. Chris Warrington's shorthanded goal and Jamie Ellison's power play goal started the Suns onslaught.
McCall (3-3) had entered the series fresh from its 6-1 and 8-4 home wins over the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose Nov. 19-20.
"It was a great effort by everybody for a first game, and Ryan was making huge saves all weekend," said Suns coach Chris Benson about the unexpected win over the reigning USA Hockey national 30-and-over champions from McCall.
Friday's win was unexpected not because the Suns can't skate with a McCall team filled with ex-Idaho Steelhead skaters, but because Sun Valley was playing without captain John Stevens and last year's top scorer Vilnis Nikolaisons.
"We didn't have our full team but we wore them down pretty good in the third period Friday," said Benson. "We've been skating hard in practices and it paid off. What we did against McCall says something about practice time."
Amazingly, Sun Valley very nearly pulled off a weekend sweep—after losing its final four match-ups of the 2003-04 season to McCall's eventual national champions. But the Mountaineers prevailed 4-3.
Benson said, "We came back to tie it after being down 3-1. We could have rolled over after Mark (Belanger) went the hospital with a concussion, but we didn't. We actually pulled Ryan (Thomson) and had four or five good chances to tie it again, after McCall took a 4-3 lead."
First-year Suns defenseman Belanger collapsed after being crunched by McCall's Lee Svangstu in the second period Saturday. Belanger was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and was treated and released. Not long before, the Suns also lost rookie defenseman Normund Krepss (back injury).
Goals by Scott Winkler and Kris Webster tied the game 3-3, then McCall's Wes Dorey scored the eventual winner with two minutes left. Benson said, "It was a sharp-angled shot. Ryan was screened and he never saw it."
It was a productive weekend for the Suns first line of center Baranzelli, right wing Ryan Enrico and left wing Scott Winkler. They combined for 12 of the 25 Suns points at McCall.
The second line of center Jamie Ellison, left wing Frank Salvoni and right wing Justin Cook was right behind with 10 points—Ellison scoring twice.
Coach Benson said he was appreciative of the support of John Ellison Sr., who made the trip to McCall for the games. Ellison pitched in and helped with the coaching duties when Benson had to play Saturday because of the two injuries.
The Suns have a couple of weeks off before hosting the Mountaineers in a New Year's weekend series, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 at Sun Valley Skating Center. They will be the first home games of the season.
Suns 7, Mountaineers 3
Sun Valley Suns.....3.....0.....4.....7
FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, Ryan Enrico 1 (Scott Winkler), 0:26. (2) McCall, Bob Ingraham (John Ursillo, Cal Ingraham), 5:39. (3) SV, Paul Baranzelli 1 (Scott Winkler, Enrico), 6:14. (4) McCall, Derek Paget (Cal Ingraham), 12:30. (5) SV, Baranzelli 2 (Enrico), 19:43.
SECOND PERIOD—(6) McCall, Cal Ingraham (unassisted), 6:41.
THIRD PERIOD—(7) SV, Chris Warrington 1 (Baranzelli), 5:29, shorthanded goal. (8) SV, Jamie Ellison 1 (Frank Salvoni, Warrington), 11:40, power play goal. (9) SV, Ellison 2 (Justin Cook, Salvoni), 14:06. (10) SV, Baranzelli 3 (Scott Winkler), 19:58, hat trick and empty net goal.
GOALIES—SV, Ryan Thomson (37 saves, 1-0-0 season record); McCall, Mark Liebich.
NOTES—They didn't have veteran players like Vilnis Nikolaisons, captain John Stevens or defenseman Eric Demment (knee), so the Suns went with three forward lines and rotated five defensemen. The lines were Scott Winkler-Paul Baranzelli-Ryan Enrico, Frank Salvoni-Jamie Ellison-Justin Cook, Caleb Baukol-Bryan Winkler-Ryan Sullivan. Defensemen were Ivars Muzis, Chris Warrington, Normunds Krepss, Mark Belanger and Kris Webster....Assistant captain Demment is rehabbing his knee, and coach Benson hopes to have him back for the New Year's weekend series against the Mountaineers in Sun Valley....Added to the 2004-05 Suns schedule is the visit of the New England Wings Feb. 25-26.
Mountaineers 4, Suns 3
Sun Valley Suns.....1.....1.....1.....3
FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, Frank Salvoni 1 (Jamie Ellison, Justin Cook), 17:01, power play goal. (2) McCall, Troy Edwards (Wes Dorey, Lee Svangstu), 18:33.
SECOND PERIOD—(3) McCall, Brett Gallagher (Bob Ingraham, Rob Dumas), 4:11. (4) McCall, Cal Ingraham (Derek Paget, John Ursillo), 6:26. (5) SV, Scott Winkler 1 (Paul Baranzelli), 18:34.
THIRD PERIOD—(6) SV, Kris Webster 1 (Ellison, Cook), 0:46. (7) McCall, Dorey (Svangstu, Dave Ingraham), 17:59, game-winning goal.
GOALIES—SV, Ryan Thomson (36 saves, 1-1-0 season record); McCall, Mark Liebich.
NOTES—The Suns lost two defensemen in the second period. First, Normunds Krepss went down with a back injury. About five minutes later McCall's Lee Svangstu pounded into Sun Valley defenseman Mark Belanger—and Belanger had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Coach Benson said Belanger suffered a concussion and was treated and released from the McCall hospital. To compensate for the loss of the two blueliners, coach Benson went out on the ice and centered the first line with left wing Scott Winkler and right wing Ryan Enrico. Paul Baranzelli, who had centered that line, dropped back to defense. And last year's Suns coach Johnny Ellison Sr. came out of the stands and became the bench coach while Benson was playing.....Benson said the Manchester Ice Arena crowd numbered between 400 and 500 tonight, after about 250 watched Friday's game....Top Suns weekend scorers were Paul Baranzelli 3 goals and 2 assists, Scott Winkler 1-3, Jamie Ellison 2-2, Ryan Enrico 1-2, Frank Salvoni 1-2 and Justin Cook 0-3.