Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sweep of Canucks, 500 wins, taste sweet for Suns

St. Nick's next for streaking Sun Valley skaters

Suns goalie Ryan Thomson was on top of his game against the Weyburn Devils during Friday's OT Suns victory. Photo by Willy Cook

Great goaltending, fearless penalty killing and a pair of one-goal victories over a hard-hitting Canadian sextet—what better way for the Sun Valley Suns men's hockey team to mark 500 wins last weekend!

The Suns (5-1) stretched their early-season winning streak to three games beating the Weyburn (Saskatchewan) Devils 5-4 in overtime Friday and following it up with a 3-2 triumph Saturday on resort ice.

Defenseman Eric Demment tallied the dramatic game-winning goal with a devastating slapshot Friday night in the middle of the five-minute OT period. Co-captain Chris Warrington scored twice including the game winner Saturday.

And the penalty killing was terrific. The Suns special teams killed off all 11 Devils power plays. The goalies did the rest—Ryan Thomson having a great game Friday with 40 saves and Colin Zulianello (31 saves) staying unbeaten Saturday.

Thomson, who logged his first-ever Suns point with an assist on Demment's game winner, said, "I just did what I could do to keep our guys in it until they could pull it out. It was great to see a good team like that come in and test us."

Sun Valley's sweep of a previously-unbeaten Weyburn squad represented the 499th and 500th wins in the program's 31 seasons of hockey. Weyburn was 12-0-1 with a 119-24 goals-against in its Big 6 Canadian Hockey League before visiting Idaho last weekend.

In addition, Devils goalie Corey McEachran was a good one, having backstopped the Thunder Bay (Ontario) Bombers to the Canadian Senior AAA Allan Cup title in 2005.

"The effort the whole weekend was really great from the whole team," said Suns coach Chris Benson about his squad. "Weyburn was a big, strong team. Their goalie played well. And we knew we weren't going to win a checking contest against the big Canadians."

But the Suns held their own in the physical battles and their two fine goalies bailed them out on more than one occasion. Another key was Sun Valley's power-play success in six games this season. The Suns (32% season success) had four power play goals in 14 tries.

Friday night was a thriller.

With wing Vilnis Nikolaisons poking away at the Devils defense in the crease, Suns scoring leader Jamie Ellison (12 points) started it off Friday with a first-period power play goal after Demment's slapper. Weyburn came back to lead 2-1.

The penalty-filled second and third periods caused a slew of power play situations for both teams—and tested coach Benson's ability to come up with an answer with his penalty killers. "I was trying to give them all enough of a breather to stay fresh. They were working hard," he said.

A beautiful backhand pass from center Ryan McDonald set up Ryan Enrico for another power play goal and a 2-2 game. Weyburn went ahead 3-2 after two periods on a screened Matt Kenny shot from the point.

The Suns got it right back, thanks to Scott Winkler. The wing made a great feed to defenseman Ivars Muzis coming in from the point and Muzis buried it for a 3-3 tie. Then the Suns took their first lead on an end-to-end play and finish.

Enrico swatted the puck away from the Devils defense in the Suns defensive zone and quickly headed up the ice with center McDonald. The bang-bang play converged on goalie McEachran, who made the save with his skate at the corner of the cage. But Winkler poked it in the net for a 4-3 Suns lead.

A Devils' rebound tied it 4-4 with seven minutes left. And it was a hair-raising seven minutes—Thomson bailing the Suns out twice in the final 2:49 with great stops on break-ins by Boyd Dennis and Kenny.

"Ryan played well and came up huge in the last half of the third period," said Benson.

The Suns dominated the overtime with a 3-0 shot advantage including a legitimate chance by Paul Baranzelli, but the winner came suddenly on a blistering Demment slapshot that beat McEachran high. Benson said Demment was making good use of the one-piece stick given to him for Christmas by John Cub Burke.

Saturday's game was another nailbiter. It was tied 2-2 until Warrington delivered his second goal of the game on the power play to hand the weekend sweep to the Suns and guarantee the 500th Suns win.

Warrington nabbed a rebound from Jamie Ellison and tipped the puck up and over McEachran's shoulder. It capped a seemingly endless string of Suns scoring chances late in the third as the home team found its best offensive groove of the 2005-06 season.

The other two Suns goals Saturday were good ones.

Warrington's first was a low slapper from the point that equalized at 1-1. Then, the most polished goal of the night gave the Suns a 2-1 third-period lead. Demment looped through traffic and shuttled a pass to the perfectly-positioned John Stevens, who one-timed a power play goal—his 96th as a Sun.

Benson gave a nod to his fourth line Saturday. "They came up with quite a few scoring chances, which is a bonus from a fourth line," he said, highlighting the play of forwards John Bidon, Bryan Winkler and Charles Friedman.

St. Nick's is coming

The Suns will be feeling a little like the Denver Broncos this weekend because their two-game series with St. Nick's from New York City will be like the champion New England Patriots are coming to town.

Game times are Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13-14 at 7 p.m.

St. Nick's Hockey Club was formed in 1897 or, as Suns Foundation Inc. president John Burke put it, about the time ageless former Suns coach John Weekes played for them.

The Big Apple bunch is the most decorated program in U.S. senior hockey—with 10 Senior Elite titles, four Senior Division championships and two Open Division banners. It seems like every eastern college hockey player worth his salt has skated for St. Nick's.

Benson said, "They'll be as talented if not more talented than Weyburn—a bunch of ex-D1 players, smart Wall Street guys who play good hockey."

In the last decade St. Nick's has won a national title nearly each year.

Behind the goaltending of Scott Prekaski, St. Nick's defeated Bucks Furniture of Minnesota 6-2 in the championship game of the U.S. Adult Elite Division National Tournament April 10 at Fond Du Lac, Wisc. It was the third National Elite title in four years for St. Nick's.

Funds raised from Saturday night's ticket proceeds go to the Atkinson Park Penguins.


Suns 5, Devils 4 (OT)

Weyburn Devils 1 2 1..0 4
Sun Valley Suns 1 1 2..1 5

FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, Jamie Ellison 7 (Chris Warrington, Eric Demment), 11:49, power play goal. (2) Weyburn, Don Sauter (Aaron Grohn, Boyd Forseth), 13:09.

SECOND PERIOD—(3) Weyburn, Sauter (Forseth), 5:02. (4) SV, Ryan Enrico 3 (Ryan McDonald, Chris Warrington), 10:38, power play goal. (5) Weyburn, Matt Kenny (Tyler Selk), 18:57.

THIRD PERIOD—(6) SV, Ivars Muzis 2 (Scott Winkler, Ryan Enrico), 0:38. (7) SV, Scott Winkler 4 (McDonald, Enrico), 6:52. (8) Weyburn, Brian Elder (Kenny, Denny Joyal), 12:43.

OVERTIME (5 minutes)—(9) SV, Demment 3 (goalie Ryan Thomson), 2:08, game-winning goal.

SHOTS ON GOAL—For Weyburn 13-16-15-0 for 44; for Sun Valley 7-9-12-3 for 31.

GOALIES—Weyburn, Corey McEachran (26 saves, 8-1-0 record); SV, Ryan Thomson (40 saves, 2-1-0 season record).

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

NOTES—Weyburn brought four of its top six scorers from the Saskatchewan Hockey Association's South Division unbeaten squad that was 12-0-1 with a 119-24 goals-against in its Big 6 Hockey League prior to the trip to Sun Valley. Weyburn had been winning its games by scores of 9-1 and 10-1 before the Idaho trip. Goalie Corey McEachran was 8-0-0 with a 1.17 average. McEachran was the winning goalie for the Thunder Bay (Ontario) Bombers in their 4-3 overtime victory over the Montmagny Sentinelles last April 24 that clinched the 2005 Allan Cup championship for Thunder Bay. This winter, Weyburn—located just north of North Dakota at the corner of Saskatchewan, Montana and North Dakota—hopes to contend for the 2006 Allan Cup title emblematic of the top teams in Canadian Senior AAA Hockey. Leading scorer Don Sauter (18 goals-19 assists in 13 games) scored two Devils goals tonight.... The Suns skated four forward lines. They consisted of Vilnis Nikolaisons-Jamie Ellison-Paul Baranzelli, Ryan Enrico-Ryan McDonald-Scott Winkler (7 of 14 Suns points tonight), Frank Salvoni-John Stevens-Caleb Baukol, and John Bidon-D.W. Cook-Rian Timmons. The defensemen were Chris Warrington-Eric Demment, Ivars Muzis, Josh Jacobson, Trevor Thomas and John Stevens. Kris Webster had the weekend off.....The Suns are now 27-22-20 in 69 overtime games over the team's 31 seasons. Here is a list of game-winning Suns OT scorers in team history: Jamie Ellison 2, John Finnegan 2, Kurt Wenzell 2, Phil Hoene 2, Paul Cartmill 2, Ryan Enrico 2, Vilnis Nikolaisons 1, Eric Demment 1, Luke Smith 1, Brian Watts 1, Tom Forti 1, Dale Johnson 1, Mark Broz 1, Pat Kearney 1, Rip Kirby 1, Terry Heneghan 1, Chas Riopel 1, Brian Saksa 1, Beets Johnson 1, Phil Hebert 1 and Sean O'Connell 1....The Suns first played a four-on-four OT session in a 4-3 OT home win over the Connecticut Camels in 2004. Enrico scored the winner in that won, 2:11 into the OT.


Suns 3, Devils 2

Weyburn Devils 1 0 1 2
Sun Valley Suns 0 1 2 3

FIRST PERIOD—(1) Weyburn, Boyd Forseth (Aaron Grohn), 16:38.

SECOND PERIOD—(2) SV, Chris Warrington 3 (John Bidon), 6:06.

THIRD PERIOD—(3) SV, John Stevens 3 (Vilnis Nikolaisons, Eric Demment), 6:09, power play goal. (4) Weyburn, Matt Kenny (Donovan Hextall), 7:59. (5) SV, Warrington 4 (Jamie Ellison, Stevens), 13:39, power play and game-wining goal.

SHOTS ON GOAL—For Weyburn 10-13-10 for 33; for Sun Valley 8-12-12 for 32.

GOALIES—Weyburn, Corey McEachran (29 saves, 8-2-0 record); SV, Colin Zulianello (31 saves, 3-0-0 season record).

OFFICIALS—Referee, Paul Fitzer; linesmen, Dave Petrie and Eric Wingard.

NOTES—For the weekend series, Weyburn (63 penalty minutes) was 0-for-11 on the power play while the Suns (69 penalty minutes) were 4-for-14 in man-advantage situations. For the season the Suns are 12-for-38 (32%) on the power play) while opponents are 4-for-34 (12%)......Co-captain Chris Warrington (2 goals, 2 assists) was the Suns top point-getter for the weekend followed by Eric Demment (1-2 for 3) and Ryan Enrico (1-2 for 3).....The Suns are now 500-195-29 all-time in 724 games.


2005-06 Sun Valley Suns
Season statistics

(5-1-0 overall: 5-1-0 home, 0-0-0 away)

Jamie Ellison 6 7 5 12 36.0
Chris Warrington 6 4 5 9 8.0
Scott Winkler 6 4 3 7 0.0
John Stevens 6 3 4 7 0.0
Vilnis Nikolaisons 6 0 7 7 6.0
Ryan Enrico 5 3 3 6 8.0
Eric Demment 6 3 3 6 10.0
Paul Baranzelli 4 2 3 5 4.0
Ryan McDonald 4 0 5 5 4.0
Ivars Muzis 6 2 2 4 10.0
Kris Webster 4 1 3 4 0.0
Frank Salvoni 6 1 1 2 4.0
Kellen Chatterton 2 0 2 2 0.0
John Bidon 6 0 2 2 9.0
Caleb Baukol 6 1 0 1 12.0
John Miller 5 0 1 1 10.0
Blake Jenson 2 0 1 1 0.0
Ryan Thomson 3 0 1 1 0.0
Josh Jacobson 6 0 0 0 4.0
Normunds Krepss 2 0 0 0 2.0
Charles Friedman 3 0 0 0 0.0
D.W. Cook 4 0 0 0 17.0
Bryan Winkler 3 0 0 0 0.0
Colin Zulianello 3 0 0 0 2.0
Trevor Thomas 4 0 0 0 8.0

Ryan Thomson 3 12 2-1-0 4.00
Colin Zulianello 3 4 3-0-0 1.34

Shots—Thomson 118, Zulianello 114.
Saves—Thomson 106, Zulianello 110.
Shootout saves—0.
Shootout goals allowed—0.
Shutouts—Zulianello 1.
Empty net goals—0.




7 4 5 0 16, 2.7

Sun Valley

10 13 7 1 31, 5.2


Two-goal games (4)—Jamie Ellison 2, Scott Winkler 1, Chris Warrington 1.

Hat tricks or more—0.

Game-winning goals—Eric Demment 1, Chris Warrington 1.

Power play goals (12-38, 32%)—Jamie Ellison 4, Eric Demment 2, Chris Warrington 1, Scott Winkler 1, Kris Webster 1, Ryan Enrico 1, John Stevens 1, Chris Warrington 1. Power play goals (opposition): 4-34, (12%).

Suns shorthanded goals—0. Shorthanded goals (opposition): 1.

Season penalty minutes: SV 154, opponents 155.


Total record: 5-1-0

Record in 1-goal games: 2-1

Record in overtime: 1-0-0

Games scoring 9 or more goals: 1

Games scoring 7 or more goals: 2

December 9 (H) Sun Valley 7, Park City Generals 4

December 10 (H) Sun Valley 9, Park City Generals 2

December 30 (H) McCall Mountaineers 4, Sun Valley 3

December 31 (H) Sun Valley 4, McCall Mountaineers 0

January 6 (H) Sun Valley 5, Weyburn Devils 4 (OT)

January 7 (H) Sun Valley 3, Weyburn Devils 2

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