Sun Valley Suns forward Taylor Rothgeb skates the puck past McCall’s Bradley Staton last weekend. Rothgeb was part of the Suns third forward line that accounted for four of the seven goals in Saturday’s 7-2 Suns victory on resort ice.
Few defensemen for the Sun Valley Suns senior men's hockey team have been so intimidating as New Englander Chris Warrington in bringing the puck up the ice, ripping off a shot or dishing a crafty pass.
He literally explodes through center ice and into the offensive zone, seemingly with extra jets in his skates. Opponents back off when they see his speed and the momentum he builds. Most times it seems Warrington can't be checked.
With his 6-2, 210-pound stature and Ivy League pedigree at Brown University, Rhode Island native Warrington, 31, resembles the great Brown defenseman Curt Bennett. Now 61, the 6-3 Bennett came out of Cranston, R.I. to become an All-American college hockey player in 1970 and play 580 National Hockey League games.
A generation apart, Bennett and Warrington both made their marks, Bennett as the first American to score 30 NHL goals in a season and Academic All-Ivy blueliner Warrington (Brown 1997-01) as a Sun Valley Suns stalwart. He played here seven winters and was the Suns team captain over the last five.
Saturday night, Warrington played his 118th and final game for the Suns. The Phillips Andover product is moving back to Hanover, N.H. for a new job and will get married this coming summer. Fittingly, his Suns teammates rallied around him in "Chipsy's" finale, leading all the way in a 7-2 triumph over the McCall Mountaineers.
The victory snapped a four-game Suns losing streak to McCall and was a great example of what team effort can accomplish when everybody puts their heads together. The Suns played hard, as Warrington has always done. Hard skating up and down the ice and throughout the lineup paid off.
Suns coach John "Cub" Burke has seen just about every Suns player over 30-plus years. He had this to say about Warrington after Saturday's victory: "He's up there with only two other Suns defensemen, both captains—Glenn Hunter and John Finnegan. Great leaders by example."
Burke added, "Chris has been a class act on and off the ice. He has been unbelievable for this program and its tradition. We're going to miss him."
Warrington didn't score Saturday, although he unleashed several of his patented rushes. He had a goal and assist in Friday's 7-6 overtime shootout loss to McCall. The Suns should have won that game as well, but they squandered a 6-4 lead with less than three minutes left and lost in overtime.
That wasn't going to happen Saturday, not with a Chipsy sendoff party in the works.
Former Williams College defenseman Eric Demment got the ball rolling for his blueline compadre with a first-period goal, and the Suns scored three unanswered goals in the third period after McCall cut its deficit to 4-2 after two stanzas. The Suns' third line scored four of the seven goals for the evening.
Burke said, "Our third line was the line of the night. But really, each line had a good effort. We realized that if we put the puck in deep and pressed the defense that we'd get a lot of opportunities." The Suns out-shot McCall 39-30 Saturday including a 15-5 margin in the pivotal third period.
Cody Proctor scored two goals while fellow third-line mates Charles Friedman and Bryan Winkler added singles. Goalie Ryan Thomson (28 saves), who was a Suns rookie with Warrington back in 2003, was solid down the stretch for his second win of the season.
Friday night's game was looking good when Warrington's final Suns goal late in the second period started a string of four unanswered Suns goals that lifted the home team from a 4-2 deficit into an 6-4 lead. They were nice goals and the Suns seemed headed to a win.
McCall still led 4-3 with nearly nine minutes gone when fourth-year Suns center Jon Duval skated the puck down the left wing and centered to linemate Jordan Pritchett. He was all alone in the crease but skated the puck in deep, behind the net, and cleverly centered it off a Mountaineers defenseman and into the net for a 4-4 tie.
When McCall blueliner Josh Schamburg juggled the puck at the Suns blue line, left wing Blake Jenson picked it up and skated it through the neutral zone. Jenson gave it to right wing Pritchett, who left it for Duval. Duval's high wrist shot for his first goal made it 5-4 with six minutes remaining.
Enrico made it 6-4 with five minutes left on a tremendous individual effort. The Hoboken hustler circled around the cage and carried the puck into traffic in front of the net—picking just the right time to lift a rising wrist shot against the grain and past goalie Jared Seconu.
Unfortunately, that was the Sun Valley high water mark. McCall took advantage of a couple of strange bounces of the puck to score two goals in 53 seconds—the game-tying goal by former Suns defenseman John Howell coming just as the Mountaineers were planning to pull Seconu off the ice in favor of a sixth attacker.
They didn't need to, and Seconu (47 saves) earned the #1 star of the game for stopping eight Suns shots in the five-minute sudden death overtime period and three more in the shootout. The game-winning goal came off the stick of former Bemidji State University All-American and ex-Idaho Steelheads defenseman Troy Edwards. McCall prevailed 7-6.
"I was out-coached by a team that didn't have a coach," cracked Burke afterward. "No, really, I can't fault our effort."
Sun Valley hosts the Cache Valley (Utah) Trappers Friday and Saturday, Jan. 8-9 at 7 p.m. at Sun Valley Skating Center. Saturday's game is a benefit for Girls on the Run.
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