There's no defense against a power outage, which canceled Friday's men's hockey game between the Sun Valley Suns and Michigan Jets just as the teams were warming up on the Sun Valley Skating Center ice.
But defense has carried the Suns a long way this season, and the Idaho Ice Curtain was fully drawn Saturday when Sun Valley turned out the lights on the visiting Post Bar Jets by an 8-2 score. It was 5-0 after the first period alone.
Scott Winkler, the fourth-year right wing who grew up stuffing goal after goal in the Sun Valley net from the Squirts to the Midgets, drilled home four goals. And center Jamie Ellison's forward line accounted for 10 of 18 points.
It was another workmanlike team effort, one that's becoming common for the 2004-05 Suns edition. The only downer, and it was a big one, was the loss of captain John Stevens to a knee injury (ACL and MCL) early in the first period.
Suns coach Chris Benson said, "The defense played pretty solid. They all kinda jumped in on the offensive play, but they also got back into their positions. It was a good game for us. But we will miss John's leadership out there."
A huge part of defense is goaltending.
Second-year goalie Ryan Thomson from New England College has been terrific between the pipes. The Suns (9-2) have allowed only 15 goals in their current seven-game winning streak and Thomson has been great.
Thomson has never been better in a Suns jersey than the second period Saturday, when the Suns picked up four minor penalties and Thomson was called upon to face three Jets power plays and a penalty shot.
He faced 14 shots that period and stopped them all. Because Thomson was seeing the puck so well and moving so quickly from side to side, it seemed likely he would earn his second shutout of the season. But the Jets spoiled the shutout scoring twice in the third stanza.
Thomson said, "Michigan was a real good team. They took their shots and got open for good plays. But I think having three or four weeks off gives you a little more focus. And the defense has been clearing guys from the front and giving me a good look."
It would have been nice to get the shutout, Thomson acknowledged, but he said about the Jets' two goals in the third period, "sometimes the puck bounces the other way. I got the bounces in the second period."
Thomson ended up stopping 34 of 36 Michigan shots. His counterpart Chuck Irwin was excellent for the Jets, facing a total 44 shots—21 in the first period—and making 36 saves.
"I'm excited about this year," Thomson added. "The team chemistry is some of the best I've seen."
Team chemistry never suffers when you score three goals in 31 seconds and roll into the locker room with a 5-0 lead after one, which is what happened Saturday when the Suns finally got on the ice after a 28-day hiatus.
Winkler, tripped by Craig Eisley of the Jets, went on the power play with his linemates Ellison and left wing Vilnis Nikolaisons. It took them all of 18 seconds to score the first goal—and all three got their sticks on the puck.
Face-off man Ellison won the draw and Winkler knocked the puck back to the point. It went to playmaker Nikolaisons along the side boards, and he lifted the puck over a Jets stick back to defenseman Jake Glotfelty on the right point. Glotfelty blasted a slapper that deflected off Winkler in front.
Two minutes later the Suns added another goal off a shot from the point.
Buzzing around as always, left wing Ryan Enrico picked up the puck in the left corner and rifled it all the way across the ice to defenseman Josh Jacobson on the right point. Jacobson teed it up and, with Paul Baranzelli jamming up Jets defenseman Steve Brown to the left of goalie Irwin, second-year blueliner Jacobson scored only his second Suns goal in 28 games.
The two goals loosened up the Jets and a Suns goal-scoring surge ended it early.
Nikolaisons, after sending Glotfelty in alone and watching Irwin make a save, was pleasantly surprised to find himself in the crease with an open net. He backhanded it home. Then Ellison fed Winkler on a two-on-one. The three goals in 41 seconds made it 4-0.
Glotfelty also found himself with an open net after another Winkler attack for a 5-0 lead after one period.
The teams pretty much traded goals after the early onslaught and celebrated, with beers afterward, just having played hockey at all. Suns captain Stevens had a beer in his hand, too, but also ice on his damaged knee.
Stevens, the 10th-year Suns do-everything inspirational player from Alaska, will need surgery on his knee. It was hurt in a freak accident early in Saturday's game, when a Suns player collided with a Jets player, who in turn fell into the side of Stevens' knee.
He just couldn't stand up after the accident. As Stevens said, it was the first time in his hockey life that he needed a whistle to get off the ice.
So, Stevens will end his hockey winter with 2 goals and 9 assists in eight games, and 93 goals and 148 points in his Sun Valley career for 11th place on the all-time scoring list.
"Hopefully we can get John Miller back in the loop to be the senior member of the team, like Stevens was," said Benson.
Snakebit Suns schedule
The New England Wings, due to visit Sun Valley this weekend, have canceled, Benson said. So, out of six games the Suns had planned for February, they will end up playing just one—Saturday's 8-2 win.
Next, the Suns (9-2) entertain the Siskiyou Summits from Oregon March 4-5. Then the local skaters will pack their bags for Jackson Hole, Wyo. and their annual grudge match against the Moose March 18-19 at Snow King Center.
Suns 8, Jets 2
Michigan Jets 0 0 2 2
Sun Valley Suns 5 2 1 8
FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, Scott Winkler 11 (Jake Glotfelty, Vilnis Nikolaisons), 10:29, power play goal. (2) SV, Josh Jacobson 1 (Ryan Enrico), 12:41. (3) SV, Nikolaisons 8 (unassisted), 13:15. (4) SV, Scott Winkler 12 (Jamie Ellison, Nikolaisons), 13:22. (5) SV, Glotfelty 3 (Scott Winkler), 19:33.
SECOND PERIOD—(6) SV, Scott Winkler 13 (Ellison, Ivars Muzis), 9:33, hat trick goal. (7) SV, Paul Baranzelli 13 (Enrico), 15:41.
THIRD PERIOD—(8) Michigan, Ben Martlock (Rob Waters, Steve Brown), 7:06, power play goal. (9) Michigan, Bruce Carroll (Dan Gardiner), 16:39. (10) SV, Scott Winkler 14 (Ellison, Muzis), 16:59.
SHOTS ON GOAL—Michigan 8-14-14 for 36; Sun Valley 21-10-13 for 44.
GOALIES—Michigan, Chuck Irwin (36 saves); SV, Ryan Thomson (34 saves, 7-2-0 season record).
OFFICIALS—Referee, Bobby Noyes; linesmen, Curtis Martin and John Olson.
NOTES—Goalie Ryan Thomson was sensational in the second period. He stopped Chris Delabbio cold six minutes into the stanza, then made a series of saves on a Jets power play. With 6:29 left in the period, Thomson's quick glove caught a penalty shot right down the middle of the ice by Chris Delabbio. Then Thomson made a quiet but unbelievable stop with his skate on a little tester by Tim Osburn.....Jets goalie Chuck Erwin was nearly as good in the third period, stopping 12 of 13 Suns shots including a handful of great saves on the Ryan McDonald line midway through the period.....Suns forward lines were Ryan Enrico-Ryan McDonald-Paul Baranzelli, Vilnis Nikolaisons-Jamie Ellison-Scott Winkler, and, for most of the game, Frank Salvoni-Bryan Winkler-Caleb Baukol. Doing some spot duty in the third period were Matt Gershater and Neal Ford. Rotating defensemen were Chris Warrington, Jake Glotfelty, Kris Webster, Ivars Muzis and Josh Jacobson. Normund "Pepsi" Krepss didn't play because he was waiting for a pair of skates to replace his damaged skates.....Jamie Ellison is fast approaching the 300-point mark in his nine-year Suns career. Ellison has 24 points this season, and has 107 goals and 189 assists for 296 points. He will be the fifth Suns skater to achieve the milestone....With his unassisted goal in the first period, Vilnis Nikolaisons passed John Finnegan and moved into fifth place on the all-time Suns goal scoring list. Nikolaisons has 110 goals in seven seasons and 176 assists for 286 points, sixth on the all-time scoring list.....Suns season point leaders in 11 games are Ryan Enrico (10-14 for 24), Ellison (6-18 for 24), Baranzelli (13-8 for 21) and Scott Winkler (14-7 for 21). Check this week's Express Web site for up-to-date Suns season statistics (9-2 overall) through 11 games.....The Suns had just one hat trick last season in 24 games—Luke Smith's 4-goal effort against Bucks Furniture last Feb. 6. This season in just 11 games the Suns boast seven hat tricks—three by Baranzelli and two by Scott Winkler. In addition, three of the hat tricks have been 4-goal efforts—one by Ryan Enrico and two by Winkler.....In 30 seasons, the Suns now have 493 wins, but they'll probably fall short of 500 franchise victories this winter because of the three games canceled against Tahoe Freeze and Michigan....The Post Bar Jets were 1-5 on the power play and Sun Valley was 1-2 with an extra skater. Penalty minutes were SV 12 and Michigan 6....The Sun Valley Midgets hockey team had a donation jar going for its mid-March trip to a regional tournament in Oklahoma, and received a nice boost from a $100 donation by NHL player Jeremy Roenick, who attended the Suns game. The Midgets are trying to raise $18,000 for the trip to Oklahoma.....As always, there was a sizable contingent of former Suns watching the game, including Terry Heneghan, Dick Nelson, Glenn Hunter, John Burke and Brad Dredge....Suns defenseman Eric Demment, starting rehab for his own knee injury, did the announcing for tonight's game....Over at Jackson Hole, Wyo., the Moose are 11-7 on the season after their 5-4 (loss) and 7-4 (win) over Colorado State University Feb. 11-12 at Snow King Center. The Moose travel to Trail, B.C., Canada Feb. 25-26 for a two-game series against the Smoke Eaters in their last action before hosting the Suns March 18-19.