Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Suns pop the top on another hockey season

Coming off 23-1-0 campaign and looking ahead

Express Staff Writer

Suns coach Chris Benson. Photo by Willy Cook

You don't mess with success, which is what the Sun Valley Suns men's hockey team enjoyed nearly every weekend and every game in last winter's memorable 23-1-0 campaign.

Balanced scoring, 166 goals in 24 games, tough defense and great goaltending took the Suns to the verge of an unprecedented unbeaten and untied season before the Boston Bulldogs eked out a 7-6 shootout victory in a tremendous season-ending game on resort ice.

And the Suns are returning many of the same players for the 2007-08 season that opens Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15 at Sun Valley Skating Center with the visit of the Park City Silver Kings from Utah.

Scheduled are 24 games, 22 on home ice, as the Suns (534-203-29 all-time) crack open their 33rd season of providing winter weekend entertainment for fans at the Sun Valley resort.

Fourth-year head coach Chris Benson (50-16-1) is pleased with the schedule that includes two Canadian sextets visiting in January, a home-and-home with the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose, a Minnesota team and two East Coast visitors in March.

"Every weekend should be quality hockey, pretty much on a par with last year," Benson said. "The guys have been practicing for six weeks and they are hungry to start the season. We'll try to play 60 minutes of disciplined hockey each night."

One thing to watch this winter is the assault of linemates Vilnis Nikolaisons (139 goals, 374 points) and Jamie Ellison (139 goals, 372 points) on the all-time Suns career scoring mark of Bobby Noyes (408 points).

Coach Benson will reunite wingers Nikolaisons and Ryan Enrico on a familiar forward line with center Ellison. Last winter the trio ended as the 1-2-3 Suns scorers topped by Ellison (45 points).

Another forward line features Jon Duval, Paul Baranzelli and Adam Swain—Duval and Swain coming off of outstanding rookie seasons. And Baranzelli (82 goals, 6 seasons) isn't too far away from becoming only the 10th Suns player to exceed 100 career goals.

The return of defenseman Ivars Muzis from a knee injury gives coach Benson four solid defensemen starting with the pairing of captain Chris Warrington and Jeremy Schreiber, along with Muzis and sixth-year blueliner Eric Demment.

Former Idaho Steelheads captain Jeremy Mylymok from Ontario is due to join the Suns for several weekends this winter including the two-game series Friday and Saturday against the Park City squad.

The 35-year-old from Boise whose pugnacious history is listed on is an avid snowboarder and current hockey director of the Boise Youth Amateur Hockey Association Junior Steelheads.

Returning goaltenders Ryan Thomson (15-1-0 last winter, 32-8-0 four seasons) and Boise's Colin Zulianello (7-0-0, 15-3-0 in two winters) also give coach Benson a sense of security as the Suns enter a season when they may have a Patriots-like target on their backs.

The Suns season schedule is published today. Look for the team roster in Friday's Express as the 7 p.m. opening faceoff and Suns excitement builds.

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