Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Suns take a bite out of Philly

Overtime triumph extends win streak


Ivars Muzis winds up for a slapper from the blue line. Muzis picked up five points on the weekend. Photo by Willy Cook

With a two game sweep of the Philadelphia Independence, including an overtime comeback victory on Saturday night, the Sun Valley Suns have extended a blazing win streak to four and improved their overall season record to 6-2.

It was a mix of talent and heart that enabled the Suns to overcome early Philly leads in back to back wins (8-1 and 7-6) in Sun Valley this weekend. Vilnus Nikolaisons's (2/1) weekend exemplified the team's performance: after leaving Friday night's game with a cut in his mouth requiring 12 stitches, Nikolaisons scored Saturday's game tying goal-- part of a three point night for the forward.

In both games, the Suns rallied after they "came out a bit flat," according to Head Coach Chris Benson. Sun Valley gave up the opening goal to the Independence on Friday and, just like déjà vu, Philly put the first puck in on Saturday night in an eventually climb to a 6-4 lead in the third period.

"We were still a little flat for the majority of the game," said Benson of Saturday's early floundering. Inspired with the recent home streak over perennial rival Jackson, though, the Suns came back both nights to send the winless Independence packing.

On Friday, the Suns rebounded quick, evening things two minutes after Philly's opening goal. The game winner came midway through the second from Jake Gotfelty and, in the third, the torrent rained down on a hapless Philadelphia team who watched as the Suns scored 6 in a row.

Benson's rookie goalie John Bidon of St. Paul, Minnesota, had his first start for his first win with 24 saves on 25 shots in an 8-1 rout. Meanwhile, the Suns pounded Philly's netminder with 43 shots as Paul Baranzelli (3/2) netted his second hat trick in two weekends. Baranzelli's five point series included one shorthanded goal and two assists.

Benson shuffled his forward lines all night, but found productivity with his first line of Baranzelli, Ryan McDonald (1/2), and Ryan Enrico (1/5), together accounting for 9 of 22 total Suns points. Enrico, with lightning speed, skated circles around Philadelphia's larger, oafish defensemen and tallied 3 assists on Friday.

On defense, assistant captain Chris Warrington was the glue that held the mixed lines together, earning 3 assists as his defensive partner Jake Glotfelty came away with a goal and assist on the night.

The Suns' penalty kill unit was indomitable all weekend, holding Philadelphia scoreless on 7 power plays and scoring shorthanded twice. Justin Cook, a rookie playing in place of Johnny Miller, had the second shorthanded goal.

On Saturday, Philadelphia capitalized on Sun Valley's slow start, with "intensity up from Friday" and clearly wanting "at least one win" on the road thought Benson.

Their goalie, Scott Graham, held up under relentless Suns pressure, stopping 47 of 54 shots. Despite the Suns mounting a 4-2 lead by the middle of the second period, Graham would enable his team to score 4 unanswered goals in the end of the second and the start of the third.

At 2:35 of the third, prospects looked grim for the Suns as Thomson let in a soft goal and the Suns found themselves down two goals with two minutes remaining. "We could have rolled over right there," said Benson.

But with two minutes left, Philadelphia idled as the Suns staged a furious two-minute drill. Sun Valley pressure was most intense with Jamie Ellison on the ice. Ellison, nursing a cut under his right eye earned in a late Friday night fight, was rabid and seemed to be everywhere on the ice, front and center for at least three scrums in front of the Philly net, and scoring finally at 1:23 to officially start the rally and bring the Suns to within one.

The comeback had Suns fans first on their edge of their seats as Benson pulled goalie Ryan Thomson with a minute remaining and then erupting in a chorus of cheers seconds later as Nikolaisons tied it up with help from captain John Stevens and Enrico.

Overtime was all Sun Valley, out-shooting the Independence 5-1 in 3 minutes of play before Enrico shuttled a pass from behind the net that ricocheted off a Philly defenseman and in for the win.

The goal was Enrico's second game winning overtime goal in as many extra sessions for the Suns; his—and the team's—last came against the Connecticut Camels in a 4-3 April 3, 2004.

The Suns travel to Lake Tahoe this weekend for a first time meeting with the Tahoe Freeze, a team that lost to Jackson last season. The series picks up again with the Freeze traveling to Sun Valley for the next home series, Feb 11-12.

Suns 8, Independence 1

Philly Independence 1 0 0 1
Sun Valley Suns 1 1 6 8

FIRST PERIOD—(1) Philly, Mike Fitzpatrick (Brennian Attiel), 9:48. (2) SV, Paul Baranzelli 8 (Ryan Enrico, Ryan McDonald), 11:39.

SECOND PERIOD—(3) SV, Jake Glotfelty 1 (John Stevens, Chris Warrington), 10:14.

THIRD PERIOD—(4) SV, Baranzelli 9 (Warrington, Enrico), 0:25. (5) SV, Ivars Muzis 2 (Enrico, Baranzelli), 3:13. (6) SV, Scott Winkler 5 (Jamie Ellison, Muzis), 6:18. (7) SV, Ellison 4 (Baranzelli, Muzis), 9:48. (8) SV, Baranzelli 10 (unassisted), 15:45, shorthanded and hat trick goal. (9) SV, Justin Cook 1 (Glotfelty, Warrington), 18:53, shorthanded goal.

SHOTS ON GOAL—For Philadelphia 10-5-10 for 25; for Sun Valley 12-15-16 for 43.

GOALIES—Philadelphia, Scott Graham (35 saves); SV, John Bidon (24 saves, 1-0-0 season record);

OFFICIALS—Referee, Paul Fitzer; linesmen, Curtis Martin and Bobby Noyes.

NOTES—Vilnis Nikolaisons went down with an injury, a stick to his mouth. He needed stitches at the hospital....Defensive pairs were Chris Warrington-Jake Glotfelty, Normunds Krepss-Ivars Muzis and Kris Webster-Josh Jacobson. It was the first game back for Krepss, the first-year blueliner from Latvia who injured his back during the first series of the season Dec. 3-4 at McCall....Coach Chris Benson mixed his forward lines quite a bit, but kept together his productive first line of Ryan Enrico-Ryan McDonald-Paul Baranzelli. They accounted for 9 of the 22 Suns points....Jamie Ellison nursed a cut under his eye after a third-period fight with big Mike Dardzinski of Philly....Justin Cook made some nice plays from his third-line spot—hitting the post with a blinding shot that the Philly goalie never saw, and then scoring the final goal of the game, shorthanded. Cook took Johnny Miller's spot on the third line. Miller didn't play tonight.....Warrington and Enrico each had 3 assists.....The Independence were 0-5 on the power play, Sun Valley 0-2, but the Suns had 2 shorthanded goals to make it 4 shorthanded goals on the season in just 7 games. Penalty minutes were SV 17, Philly 11.

Suns 7, Independence 6 (OT)

Philly Independence 2 2 2 0 6
Sun Valley Suns 3 1 2 1 7

FIRST PERIOD—(1) Philly, Mark Cervellero (Tom Westfall, Ross Cowan), 2:14. (2) SV, Ivars Muzis 3 (Vilnis Nikolaisons, Jamie Ellison), 3:33. (3) SV, Ryan McDonald 2 (Ryan Enrico), 8:52. (4) Philly, Dave Lunardini (Cowan), 16:50. (5) SV, Jake Glotfelty 2 (Chris Warrington, John Stevens), 18:51.

SECOND PERIOD—(6) SV, Nikolaisons 2 (Normunds Krepss), 6:03. (7) Philly, Cowan (Joe Bartlett, Rich Podulka), 9:16, power play goal. (8) Philly, Bartlett (Bill Connors), 19:43.

THIRD PERIOD—(9) Philly, Bartlett (Mike Dardzinski), 2:52. (10) Philly, Brennian Attiel (Westfall, Podulka), 17:25. (11) SV, Ellison 5 (Glotfelty), 18:37. (12) SV, Nikolaisons 3 (Stevens, Enrico), 19:09.

OVERTIME (5 minutes)—(13) SV, Enrico 8 (McDonald, Muzis), 2:53, game-winning goal.

SHOTS ON GOAL—For Philadelphia 11-14-12-1 for 38; for Sun Valley 17-14-18-5 for 54.

GOALIES—Philadelphia, Scott Graham (47 saves); SV, Ryan Thomson (32 saves, 5-2-0 season record);

OFFICIALS—Referee, John Heinrich; linesmen, Paul Fitzer and Eric Wingard.

NOTES—The Suns are now 26-22-19 in overtime games over the club's 30 seasons. Enrico scored his second game-winning OT goal for the Suns. He scored the winner the last time the Suns played an extra session, in their 4-3 win over the Connecticut Camels last April 3....Ryan Enrico (1-5 for 6), Paul Baranzelli (3-2 for 5) and Ivars Muzis (2-3 for 5) led the Suns in weekend scoring. The Suns out-pointed the Independence 40-17 on the scoresheet.....Suns season point leaders in eight games are Enrico (8-9 for 17), Baranzelli (10-6 for 16) and Jamie Ellison (5-9 for 14). Check this week's Express Web site for up-to-date Suns season statistics (6-2 overall) through eight games.....Philly was 1-3 on the power play (1-8 weekend) and Sun Valley was 0-4 with an extra skater (0-6 weekend). Penalty minutes were SV 6 (23 weekend) and Philly 8 (19 weekend).

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