Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Suns, Moose ready for first hockey clash

Big weekend series starts Friday

Express Staff Writer

Getting ready to play the Jackson Hole Moose is never the easiest thing to do for the Sun Valley Suns.

For 10 years the Moose have been the Suns #1 opponent. As Moose forward T.J. Thomas has said, it's like playing your biggest rival in high school.

It's the Yankees-Red Sox of Intermountain senior hockey.

Sun Valley (11-3) and Jackson Hole (7-5) are on a Leap Year collision course to play Friday and Saturday, Feb. 29 and March 1 at Sun Valley Skating Center.

Both teams have been pointing to the series since last winter when the Suns were in the midst of their best season and the Moose were having their worst year.

The Suns in particular recall what happened last winter. The Moose would rather forget. Sun Valley won all four games between the teams, the Suns (23-1-0) sweeping the Moose at Wyoming's Snow King Center 5-3 and 5-4 and the Moose (9-14-0) losing 12-9 and 6-3 on Idaho ice.

It's not like the Suns haven't tried to take the ice against the Moose this winter. They made it all the way to Idaho Falls Friday, Feb. 8 before high winds and drifting snow closed U.S. 26 east of Idaho Falls and shut down the only passable road into Jackson for a full day.

So the Feb. 8-9 Suns-Moose series in Jackson Hole was postponed until March 21-22, meaning the two teams will clash for the first time Friday. And the Moose will look quite a bit different from last winter.

Jackson has a new goalie, Nick "Chud" Aulich, a Chicago-area backstop who played for the Danville Wings North American Hockey League Junior "A's" from 1999-01.

They've beefed up on offense with the return of Minnesota's Justin Martin, a strong shooter and 20-goal scorer for the Moose four years ago who leads the Moose with 12 goals and 23 points in 10 games. They've out-shot their foes two-to-one.

Veterans Joe Casey and Gregg Gripentrog, heart and soul of the Moose for most of the decade, have returned from injuries. The Moose are up to 30% efficiency on their power play, comparable to the Suns' 28%. They've outscored opponents 81-61, an average of 6-5 a game that nearly matches the Suns average of 7-4.

The new and improved Moose of second-year coach Adam Patterson won their first four over the Spokane Railors (13-4 and 13-5 Dec. 7-8) and Aspen Leafs (7-5 and 7-1 Jan. 4-5) before falling 10-4 to the Trail Smoke Eaters Jan. 11.

Jackson Hole bounced back with a 6-5 win over Trail Jan. 12 then split two weekend series with the Chicago Chargers and Philadelphia Independence—winning 8-2 and losing 7-5 to the Chargers, then winning 10-5 and losing 4-3 (OT shootout) to Philly Feb. 1-2. A talented New York Degree team swept the Moose 7-3 and 6-3 Feb. 15-16 at Snow King.

In their last four series the Moose have split three series and lost one, all at home. The Suns, also playing all home games this season, have won six of their last seven contests.

But it's been more of a rocky road for the Suns, idle for three weeks in early February. The Suns also lost their coach Chris Benson. A Suns mainstay for 18 years, he resigned in January due to the weight of responsibility of running the Suns.

Former coach, Hall of Fame player and passionate Suns believer John "Cub" Burke is very much like Benson in that he's from Minnesota and he'll do just about anything to support the Suns players.

Burke knows all about the Moose challenge and how the Suns should prepare.

"It's just a much higher and faster level of play," said Burke, who made a guest appearance coaching the Suns last weekend for their 8-3 and 4-3 victories over the Missoula Cutthroats from Montana. "The guys are just rusty. They haven't had a lot of ice time for the last month and they're going to have to get a lot better, fast, to play with the Moose."

Burke saw progress and more discipline from the Suns in sweeping a pretty decent Missoula squad.

Saturday night the Suns played one of their best defensive games and did what they did in beating the Moose four times at Snow King the last two years—procure the early lead and stiffen up on defense. He ran three forward lines instead of the usual four-line system, for a reason.

"A lot of it, playing three lines, was for conditioning, and the guys held up pretty well with the speed of the game," Burke said.

You don't win without good goaltending. The Suns got it from #1 goalie Ryan Thomson (6-2-0, 4.50) and "George Jacket" winner Billy Cook (3-1-0, 4.75) against Missoula.

Friday, five unanswered Suns goals erased an early 1-0 Cutthroat lead and put the home team in command 5-1. Missoula capitalized on several power play chances to creep back into it 5-3—and it could easily have been 5-5 if not for Thomson's timely stops.

Thomson stuffed Missoula's two-on-one that started with a Dustin Thompson pass to onrushing Dan Dimezza. Dimezza ended up in the net but the puck didn't, thanks to Thomson's save. Then, during a Suns line change during a Missoula power play, Thompson went in alone and goalie Thomson made a key pad save.

Both teams were incredulous and congratulatory towards Thomson's efforts after he made an impossible glove save on an open net with 36 seconds left in the second period. The score stayed 5-3 at the break, then goals by Jon Duval and Charles Friedman within the first two minutes of period three iced the victory.

Said coach Burke, "It's tough when you're constantly playing shorthanded and killing penalties, and we missed a player like (Jeremy) Schreiber on defense tonight. But Ryan (Thomson) was our best penalty killer tonight. He played great. We moved the puck early in the third period and showed more discipline. It wasn't pretty, but it was a win."

Wing Ryan Enrico scored a pair of goals Friday and he added a third Saturday giving the Suns a 4-2 lead in the second period. Earlier, veterans John Stevens (power play) and John Miller put Sun Valley on the board, and Adam Swain cracked open a 2-2 tie with a power play goal early in the second, from Schreiber.

Goalie Cook, protecting a one-goal lead, came up big when he stopped Missoula's Cale Fylling on a breakaway with eight minutes left, after a breakout pass by ex-college hockey star Mike Roesch. And Schreiber made a huge play when he dumped Roesch to Cook's left and the puck hanging dangerously in the crease with two minutes to go.

The third period was scoreless.

"I was happy with how Billy played, not letting anything into the net," said Burke. "We had a lot of chances but their goalie (Josh Skinner) played well. We dropped back on defense especially at the end."

This weekend's games begin the 2007-08 homestretch that should offer the Suns their sternest tests. A March 7-8 home series with a Canadian team has been canceled, so the final Suns home games are against goalie Bobby Farrelly's East Coast Gutter Snipes March 14-15. Then it's off to Jackson Hole March 21-22.

For the record, the Moose still lead the 10-year series with the Suns 26-17-1 including a 15-6-1 home record at Snow King Center and a 11-11 dead-even mark in Sun Valley. Two years ago Jackson Hole swept the Suns in Idaho 4-3 and 5-3.

Check the Express Web site for the Missoula summary and updated team statistics.


Suns Hockey Summary

SUNS 8, cutthroats 3

Friday, February 22

Missoula Cutthroats 1 2 0 3
Sun Valley Suns 2 3 3 8

FIRST PERIOD—(1) Missoula, Mike Roesch (Cale Fylling), 6:33. (2) SV, Paul Baranzelli 11 (Adam Swain, Ivars Muzis), 17:48, power play goal. (3) SV, Ryan Enrico 8 (Vilnis Nikolaisons, Jamie Ellison), 19:17.

SECOND PERIOD—(4) SV, Enrico 9 (Chris Warrington), 2:49. (5) SV, Cody Proctor 3 (Charles Friedman), 3:22. (6) SV, Eric Demment 6 (Rian Timmons), 3:38. (7) Missoula, Seth Romocki (Dustin Thompson), 6:26. (8) Missoula, Ben Burns (Thompson, Romocki), 18:14, power play goal.

THIRD PERIOD—(9) SV, Jon Duval 2 (Swain, Warrington), 0:33. (10) SV, Friedman 3 (Warrington, Proctor), 1:42. (11) SV, Baranzelli 12 (Duval), 17:52.

SHOTS ON GOAL—Missoula 7-15-12 for 34; Sun Valley 13-11-12 for 36.

GOALIES—Missoula, Matt Moore (28 saves); SV, Ryan Thomson (31 saves, 6-2-0 record).

OFFICIALS—Referee, Tom Fisher; linesmen, Eric Wingard and Pat Ballou.

NOTES—Caleb Baukol had plenty of chances to blow the compressed gas-powered airhorn signifying a Suns goal (or Beat the Suns success). In true Union Pacific Sun Valley tradition, the airhorn sounds a little like a train blasting through Shoshone while vehicles wait in line at the flashing light.....In a shorthanded situation, Sun Valley's Ryan Enrico stole the puck from Missoula defenseman Ryan Gieges and went in alone on Cutthroat goalie Matt Moore with nine minutes left in the second period and the Suns leading 5-2. Gieges hauled Enrico down from behind and referee Tom Fisher flashed up the penalty shot sign. Moore stopped Enrico's penalty shot bid with his right leg.....Playing without Cody Lampl, Mike Hanson, Jeremy Schreiber and Jeremy Mylymok tonight, Suns forward lines were Ryan Enrico-Jamie Ellison-Vilnis Nikolaisons, Adam Swain-Jon Duval-Paul Baranzelli, Cody Proctor-John Miller-Charles Friedman, Gunnar Gladics-Bryan Winkler-Rian Timmons. The defensemen were Ivars Muzis-Eric Demment, Trevor Thomas-Chris Warrington, Kris Webster-Josh Jacobson. Billy Cook was back-up goalie.......Serving as bench coach was Suns Hall of Fame and former coach John "Cub" Burke. "It was fun for me to make a guest appearance," Burke said. Former caddy for Davis Love III, Burke is back out on the PGA golf tour working for 38-year-old Brett Quigley from Rancho Santa Fe, Ca. Quigley is a native New Englander, from Fort Devens, Mass., similar to Burke's first professional golfer, Brad Faxon of Barrington, R.I. The 1987 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, Quigley made $2.6 million in his best year, 2006, but dropped back to $717,411 last season and was 118th on the FedEx Cup with 2,613 points. University of South Carolina product Quigley hasn't made it to the weekend so far this year, playing only two rounds at the FBR Open Jan. 31 and the Northern Trust Open Feb. 15. He fired his caddy after the second round at the Buick Open in Michigan last June and hasn't won since a Nationwide Tour event in Arkansas in 2001. Next up for Quigley and Burke is The Honda Classic Feb. 25-March 2 on the PGA National Resort and Spas Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla..........Missoula's best player was 5-8, 190-pound Mike Roesch, who scored the first goal of the game and displayed explosive speed. Hailing from Northbrook, Ill. near St. Louis, the 24-year-old Roesch was a star forward from 2002-06 for the University of Illinois hockey club in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. In fact Roesch was the ACHA's "Player of the Year" as a junior in 2005 when he led Illinois to the ACHA national championship. In 132 games over four seasons the left-shooter scored 88 goals and 104 assists for 192 points including an amazing 38 goals and 37 assists in 36 games during the 2005 national title season. In his senior year Roesch had 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points as Illinois lost in the ACHA national tournament semi-final to Penn State 1-0, and the University of Rhode Island went on to beat Penn State 3-1 for the 2006 championship. Last February Roesch had 4 goals in the amazing 12-11 Suns victory over the Cutthroats that was the second highest scoring game in Suns history. There were 23 goals (4 hat tricks) and 39 assists in the 60-minute barnburner. The Suns rallied from a 7-3 deficit with 6 unanswered goals.....

SUNS 4, cutthroats 3

Saturday, February 23

Missoula Cutthroats 2 1 0 3
Sun Valley Suns 2 2 0 4

FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, John Stevens 1 (Chris Warrington), 1:39, power play goal. (2) Missoula, Ben Almy (Zack Golkowski, Ben Burns), 5:19. (3) SV, John Miller 2 (unassisted), 5:31. (4) Missoula, Burns (Derrick Besich), 17:30.

SECOND PERIOD—(5) SV, Adam Swain 12 (Jeremy Schreiber), 2:20, power play goal. (6) SV, Ryan Enrico 10 (Jamie Ellison, Vilnis Nikolaisons), 4:40. (7) Missoula, Dustin Thompson (Seth Romocki), 6:43.

THIRD PERIOD—No scoring.

SHOTS ON GOAL—Missoula 10-9-7 for 26; Sun Valley 12-17-7 for 36.

GOALIES—Missoula, Josh Skinner (32 saves); SV, Billy Cook (23 saves, 3-1-0 record).

OFFICIALS—Referee, Tom Fisher; linesmen, Pat Ballou and Ajax Dempsey.

NOTES—The three Suns forward lines protecting the lead at the end of the game were Ryan Enrico-Jamie Ellison-Vilnis Nikolaisons, Adam Swain-Jon Duval-Paul Baranzelli, Charles Friedman-John Miller-John Stevens. Eric Demment wasn't playing, so the five defensemen were Jeremy Schreiber, Ivars Muzis, Chris Warrington, Kris Webster and Josh Jacobson......Duval made a monstrous check on Missoula's Ben Burns early in the third period that brought gasps from the Sawtooth United Football Club benefit crowd......Coach Richard Whitelaw was in the house tonight for the soccer benefit, presumably taping the Premier League game....."George Jacket" winner for the weekend was tonight's winning goalie Billy Cook, a proud product of the Sun Valley Junior Hockey program who also played college hockey at Manhattanville......The Suns were 2-for-3 on the power play tonight and 3-for-7 for the weekend. Missoula was 0-for-3 tonight and 1-for-10 on the power play for the weekend...Weekend penalty minutes were Sun Valley 36 and Missoula 20...Leading the Suns weekend scoring parade with 4 points was captain Chris Warrington (4 assists).......Nikolaisons (148 goals and 255 assists for 403 points) is drawing closer to all-time Suns scoring leader Bobby Noyes (195 goals and 213 assists for 408 points).....Last winter's scoring leader Jamie Ellison (145 goals, 242 assists for 387 points) has an outside chance to eclipse 400 points in the final 6 Suns games this winter......After 14 games this season, the Suns all-time record in 780 games over 33 seasons is 545-206-29.


2007-08 Sun Valley Suns Season statistics

(11-3-0 overall: 11-3-0 home, 0-0-0 away)

Vilnis Nikolaisons 14 9 20 29 10
Adam Swain 13 12 13 25 6
Chris Warrington 11 7 16 23 20
Ryan Enrico 13 10 10 20 12
Paul Baranzelli 13 12 7 19 29
Jeremy Mylymok 6 4 13 17 10
Cody Lampl 6 10 6 16 25
Jamie Ellison 10 6 9 15 40
Eric Demment 9 6 8 14 20
Jeremy Schreiber 11 4 8 12 22
Jon Duval 12 2 8 10 18
Charles Friedman 12 3 4 7 10
John Miller 9 2 5 7 20
Ivars Muzis 10 2 4 6 20
Cody Proctor 11 3 2 5 16
Kris Webster 14 2 3 5 10
John Stevens 7 1 4 5 4
Blake Jenson 6 0 5 5 4
Ryan McDonald 3 2 1 3 0
Sinjin Thomas 6 1 2 3 8
Chris Benson 1 1 2 3 2
Bryan Winkler 3 2 0 2 2
Mike Hanson 2 2 0 2 6
Gunnar Gladics 7 1 1 2 0
Rian Timmons 8 0 2 2 6
Billy Cook 4 0 2 2 0
Josh Jacobson 13 0 1 1 27
Trevor Thomas 10 0 1 1 30
Ryan Thomson 9 0 1 1 2
Michael Connor 2 0 0 0 2
Colin Zulianello 2 0 0 0 2

Ryan Thomson 8.67 39 6/2/2000 4.5
Billy Cook 4 19 3/1/2000 4.75
Colin Zulianello 1.33 2 2-0-0 1.5

Shots—Thomson 276, Cook 106, Zulianello 46. Saves—Thomson 235, Cook 87, Zulianello 44. Shootout saves—Thomson 2. Shootout goals allowed—Thomson 3. Shutouts—0. Empty net goals—0.

Opposition 18 21 18 3 60, 4.3
Sun Valley 29 39 33 3 104, 7.4


Two-goal games (12)—Ryan Enrico 3, Paul Baranzelli 3, Eric Demment 2, Cody Lampl 1, Vilnis Nikolaisons 1, Chris Warrington 1, Jeremy Mylymok 1.

Three-goal hat tricks (or more)—Adam Swain 2, Cody Lampl 2, Vilnis Nikolaisons (4 goals) 1, Paul Baranzelli 1.

Game-winning goals—Adam Swain 1.

Power play goals (21-75, 28%)—Cody Lampl 4, Adam Swain 4, Paul Baranzelli 3, Jeremy Mylymok 2, Chris Warrington 1, Cody Proctor 1, Chris Benson 1, Eric Demment 1, Ivars Muzis 1, Ryan Enrico 1, Jeremy Schreiber 1, John Stevens 1.

Power play goals (opposition): 15-93, (16%).

Suns shorthanded goals (8)—Adam Swain 2, Mike Hanson 1, Vilnis Nikolaisons 1, Paul Baranzelli 1, Ryan Enrico 1, Chris Warrington 1, Cody Lampl 1.

Shorthanded goals (opposition): 2.

Season penalty minutes: SV 385, opponents 324.


Total record: 11-3-0

Record in 1-goal games: 2-2-0

Record in overtime: 1-1-0

Games scoring 9 or more goals: 5

Games scoring 7 or more goals: 7

December 14 (H) Sun Valley 9, Park City Silver Kings 8 (OT)
December 15 (H) Sun Valley 5, Park City Silver Kings 2  
December 28 (H) Sun Valley 6, McCall Mountaineers 3
December 29 (H) McCall Mountaineers 7, Sun Valley 4
January 4 (H) Sun Valley 10, Utah All-Stars 3
January 5 (H) Sun Valley 8, Utah All-Stars 5
January 11 (H) Innisfail Eagles 7, Sun Valley 6 (OT shootout)
January 12 (H) Sun Valley 5, Innisfail Eagles 3
January 25 (H) Sun Valley 9, Rossland Warriors 1
January 26 (H) Sun Valley 13, Rossland Warriors 4
February 15 (H) Team Utah 6, Sun Valley 5
February 16 (H) Sun Valley 12, Team Utah 5
February 22 (H) Sun Valley 8, Missoula Cutthroats 3
February 23 (H) Sun Valley 4, Missoula Cutthroats 3

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