The Missoula Cutthroats from the Glacier Hockey League are making a habit of visiting Sun Valley each year for a Valentine's Day weekend series and offering some of the best hockey seen all year.
As far as men's hockey rivalries go, the Cutthroats from Montana are fast becoming the new Jackson Hole Moose to the Sun Valley Suns—a great match-up featuring close games, up-and-down action and determination all around.
Last weekend was a perfect example of a sweetheart of a hockey series at Sun Valley Skating Center.
Friday, Missoula captain Dustin Thompson made a great individual play in the five-minute overtime period that turned into the shorthanded, game-winning goal in the 4-3 Cutthroat win. Only 11 seconds remained in OT at the time.
Thompson was playing only 10 minutes after absorbing a flagrant checking-from-behind penalty that left him on his knees, stunned—and sent Sun Valley's Jon Duval packing with a game misconduct.
It was a great win for the Cutthroats and a disheartening loss for the Suns (9-5-0), who were on the power play and seemed headed for an OT win.
Saturday, the Suns shrugged off the loss with an outstanding team effort in a 3-2 win that split the weekend series. Assistant captain Ryan Enrico scored two goals, including the eventual game winner—his 100th as a Suns player.
Goalie Ryan Thomson made 32 saves and held the Cutthroats scoreless for the first two periods while the Suns were building a slim 2-0 lead.
The Suns outshot Missoula 46-34 in the victory and fore-checked with resolve, causing coach John Burke to comment, "These guys play with a lot of heart. They didn't want to get swept. Guys like Taylor Rothgeb and the rest skated 110% for 120 minutes this weekend."
Burke added, "Missoula brought a good squad. I thought Friday's game was very even—it could have gone either way. I'm real proud of our guys."
With the win, Sun Valley pulled ahead 6-4 in the 10-game, five-season series that started in 2007 with an incredible 12-11 Suns win. Six of the 10 games have been settled by one goal. Eight of the 10 games have been decided by two goals or fewer.
That's a close series. Said Thompson, a major Cutthroat contributor in all 10 games who hails from the city of Great Falls, "We have some great hockey in Montana and we enjoy coming to Sun Valley."
With time ticking away in Friday's overtime and the Suns threatening on the power play, Thompson blocked a pass at the blueline and headed down the ice. Pursuing him was Suns defenseman Ivars Muzis.
Thompson said, "We were killing a penalty and all of a sudden I saw a fluttering puck. I chased it down and gave it all I had and it was a footrace from there. He (Muzis) hooked me and I went down by the goal. When I looked up, I asked Brandon (Baker) what happened. He said we had won."
Only 11 seconds remained when Thompson rushed Suns goalie Ryan Thomson. Referee Jim Kimball immediately threw his arm up, signaling a penalty on Muzis. In the flurry Thompson's skate hit goalie Thomson in the padded neck area, no injury, but Thomson was stunned and stayed down.
Baker picked up the puck and stashed it in the net. Suns coach Burke complained to referee that the play should have been whistled dead to protect an injured goaltender. But Kimball's judgment was the puck was still alive, untouched by a Suns player to cause a whistle, so Baker's goal stood.
Kimball added that he would have called for a penalty shot if the game-winning goal had not been scored.
Suns goalie Thomson was back between the pipes Saturday and spoke loudly with his actions. The veteran came up with one of his best efforts to keep Missoula off the board until the visitors scored two power-play goals in the third.
Veteran John Stevens started the Suns scoring Saturday late in the opening period with his first goal of the season. Enrico tallied his 10th goal, on the power play for a 2-0 Suns lead in the second. Enrico's third-period goal provided the cushion the Suns needed.
Check the Express Web site for a Missoula Cutthroats summary and updated Suns season statistics.
Wright Homes arrives Friday
One of Minnesota's best men's senior hockey programs,
Wright Homes/Fhit of Minneapolis, Minn., sends a delegation to Sun Valley for two hockey games Friday and Saturday, Feb. 18-19. Opening faceoffs are at 7 p.m. each night.
Saturday's game is a benefit for Girls on the Run.
Wright Homes won the USA Hockey national championship in the Senior Elite class in 2007 and 2008. A Wright Homes team also has won three of the six U.S. Pond Hockey Championship titles (2006, 2008, 2010) staged each January on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.
Cutthroats 4, Suns 3 (OT)
Friday, February 11
Miss. Cutthroats 2 0 1 1 4
Sun Valley Suns 0 2 1 0 3
FIRST PERIOD—(1) Missoula, Dustin Thompson (unassisted), 0:28. (2) Missoula, Derek Vesladahl (John Melendez), 7:54.
SECOND PERIOD—(3) SV, Blake Jenson 2 (Vilnis Nikolaisons), 7:38. (4) SV, Taylor Rothgeb 6 (Eric Demment), 10:26, power play goal.
THIRD PERIOD—(5) Missoula, James Wiscombe (Lucky Bobby, Thompson), 13:56. (6) SV, Ryan Enrico 9 (Ivars Muzis), 16:49.
OVERTIME (5 minutes)—(7) Missoula, Brandon Baker (unassisted), 4:49, shorthanded and game-winning goal.
SHOTS ON GOAL—Missoula Cutthroats 16-10-10-2 for 38; Sun Valley 11-8-12-3 for 34.
GOALIES—Missoula Cutthroats, David Zentmire (31 saves); Sun Valley, Ryan Thomson (34 saves, 7-5-0 record).
OFFICIALS—Jim Kimball and Tyler Hanson.
NOTES—The Suns wore the white jerseys of Grumpy's/SV Auto Club, a Senior "A" Hockey League team.....Eighth-year goalie Ryan Thomson, (59-27-0, 10-9-0 OT) has played in goal in 19 of the last 21 Suns overtime games. He won Sun Valley's last OT game before tonight, 7-6 in the 5-minute OT over the East Coast Gutter Snipes Jan. 22, 2010.......Thomson made a great shorthanded save on Missoula's Brandon Baker with 58 seconds left in the 5-minute overtime, but Baker scored the winner 47 seconds later.....The Suns had two golden chances to score and end the game. University of Montana goalie David Zentmire made an outstanding save on Matt Ward's even-strength breakaway with 16 seconds left in regulation time, and Suns defenseman Ivars Muzis hit the post 3:38 into OT after his buddy Vilnis Nikolaisons brought the puck into the Cutthroat zone and absorbed a check behind the net......The Suns are now 34-30-20 in 84 overtime games over 36 seasons (7-11 in 18 shootouts since 1998)......Suns forward lines were Blake Jenson-Chad Levitan-Vilnis Nikolaisons, Cody Proctor-Charles Friedman-Taylor Rothgeb, Ryan Enrico-Jon Duval-Bryan O'Connell.....Duval's line had some great chances to break the 2-2 tie midway through the third period on the power play, but couldn't cash in.......A half minute after Missoula's James Wiscombe staked Missoula to a 3-2 lead on the power play, Duval crunched Montana State referee-in-chief and Cutthroats captain Dustin Thompson into the boards to the right of Suns goalie Ryan Thomson. Duval got the gate on a flagrant checking-from-behind 5-minute major penalty and also had a 5-minute fighting penalty tacked on for his fight with Wiscombe after the hit. Referee Jim Kimball explained that the game misconduct was automatic because the Missoula player Thompson was hit from behind head first into the boards. It was the sixth game misconduct of the season assessed to a Suns player......Tonight was the third overtime game played between the teams in the series dating back to 2007, and the Cutthroats have won all three. Led by Josh Skinner's brilliant goaltending, the Cutthroats visited Sun Valley over Valentine's Day weekend 2009 and shocked the Suns with back-to-back overtime victories, 7-6 in the regular 5-minute session on Friday night and 8-7 in a shootout Saturday. It was the first time in the 34 years of Suns hockey that Sun Valley lost OT games on the same weekend. And the OT sweep came after the Cutthroats had been 0-4 on their previous two visits to Sun Valley, having lost games by 8-3 and 4-3 in 2008, and 12-11 and 8-3 in 2007. Last February 12-13, the teams split, Sun Valley winning the opener 8-6 and Missoula the nightcap 6-4. Tonight was the lowest scoring game of the 5-season series.....Missoula split a series with the Jackson Hole Moose Nov. 19-20, 2010, losing the Friday night game at Snow King Center 8-3 and winning the Saturday contest 4-1. The Moose (64 goals scored, 61 against) were 6-6 for the 2010-11 season before their home games Feb. 11-12.
SUNS 3, CUTTHROATS 2
Saturday, FEBRUARY 12
Missoula Cutthroats 0 0 2 2
Sun Valley Suns 1 1 1 3
FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, John Stevens 1 (Sean Rynes), 15:38.
SECOND PERIOD—(2) SV, Ryan Enrico 10 (Bryan O'Connell, Ivars Muzis), 7:15, power play goal.
THIRD PERIOD—(3) Missoula, Richie Jensen (Doug Walter), 2:39, power play goal. (4) SV, Enrico 11 (Vilnis Nikolaisons, Eric Demment), 5:59. (5) Missoula, Dustin Thompson (Peter Mahler, James Wiscombe), 13:37, power play goal.
SHOTS ON GOAL—Missoula Cutthroats 10-8-16 for 34; Sun Valley 22-10-14 for 46.
GOALIES—Missoula Cutthroats, David Zentmire (45 saves); Sun Valley, Ryan Thomson (32 saves, 8-5-0 record).
OFFICIALS—Jim Kimball and John Heinrich.
NOTES—Ryan Enrico's second goal of the game, which turned out to be the eventual winner, was the 100th of his 8-year Suns career. Enrico (100-120 for 220 points, 14th all-time) became only the 11th Suns player to score 100 or more goals......Enrico (3-0 for 3 points) and Missoula's Dustin Thompson (2-1 for 3) were the top weekend scorers.....With his assist tonight, 13th-year defenseman Ivars Muzis (55-120 for 175 points) tied Dave Reichel for 25th place on the all-time list.....It may be a long shot for captain and 13th-year forward Vilnis Nikolaisons (173 goals, 288 assists) to get the 8 assists he needs to pass Glenn Hunter (295 assists) as the all-time leading Suns assist man. Right now, Nikolaisons has 5 assists in 8 games and there are 8 games left on the schedule..... In the 10-game, 5-season series between the teams, six of the games have been settled by one goal, and eight of the 10 games by two goals or less. The Suns lead the series 6-4.......With Jon Duval sitting out, the Suns forward lines were Vilnis Nikolaisons-Ryan Enrico-Bryan O'Connell, Caleb Baukol-John Stevens-Sean Rynes, Blake Jenson-Charles Friedman-Taylor Rothgeb and Tate Mills. The defensemen were Ivars Muzis, Eric Demment, Kris Webster, Bryan Winkler, Trevor Thomas and Josh Jacobson.......Missoula forward lines were Peter Mahler-Dustin Thompson-James Wiscombe, Doug Walter-Richie Jensen-John Melendez, Michael Zook-Nick Siddoway-Robby Knott. The defensemen included Nate Besich, Setty Bobby, Derek Vesladahl, Brandon Baker. Thompson, 30, from Great Falls, played junior hockey in southern Alberta and also skated for coach John "Miracle on Ice" Harrington for the Saint John's University "Johnnies" in Minnesota. He has been the Montana State hockey referee-in-chief for 4 years. Currently, Thompson is the leading scorer in the Glacier Hockey League's "Cup Division" playing at the Glacier Ice Rink located at Western Montana Fairgrounds in Missoula. He plays for the Fylling Concrete team. Thompson has come to Sun Valley on all five of Missoula's visits since 2007. He scored a hat trick in the memorable 12-11 Suns victory in 2007. It was the second-highest scoring game in Suns history.....Suns goalie Ryan Thomson made a big save on Thompson's hard, low shot late in the second period to keep Missoula scoreless......The Suns were 2-for-11 on the power play this weekend, and Missoula was 3-for-10. The Suns had 43 penalty minutes and Missoula 44.....Through 14 games, the Suns have 315 penalty minutes (22.5 per game) and opponents have 214 (15.3), while the Suns are 13-for-56 on the power play and opponents 17-for-81.
2010-11 Sun Valley Suns statistics
(9-5-0 overall: 8-4-0 home, 1-1-0 away)
PLAYER GAMES GOALS AST. PTS. PMIN
Bryan O'Connell 10 13 12 25 2.0
Ryan Enrico 14 11 14 25 28.0
Jon Duval 12 4 9 13 36.0
Chad Levitan 13 9 3 12 15.0
Ivars Muzis 12 0 9 9 10.0
Matt Ward 13 3 5 8 10.0
Vilnis Nikolaisons 8 3 5 8 8.0
Taylor Rothgeb 13 6 1 7 6.0
Jordan Pritchett 4 5 2 7 4.0
Blake Jenson 8 2 5 7 6.0
Eric Demment 5 2 5 7 10.0
Cody Proctor 12 3 3 6 11.0
Charles Friedman 12 1 5 6 8.0
Trevor Thomas 12 2 2 4 41.0
Jamie Ellison 5 2 2 4 4.0
Zak Greenawalt 9 0 4 4 18.0
Sean Rynes 8 1 3 4 10.0
John Stevens 9 1 3 4 7.0
Bryan Winkler 5 2 1 3 8.0
Josh Jacobson 10 0 2 2 26.0
Danny Ward 4 1 0 1 13.0
Caleb Baukol 4 1 0 1 7.0
Sinjin Thomas 2 1 0 1 4.0
Ryan Thomson 13 0 1 1 2.0
Kris Webster 8 0 1 1 19.0
John Miller 2 0 1 1 0.0
Kellen Corrigan 2 0 1 1 0.0
Noah Loyd 5 0 0 0 0.0
Mike Connor 3 0 0 0 0.0
Tate Mills 1 0 0 0 0.0
Bobby Sloper 1 0 0 0 0.0
Mat Gershater 1 0 0 0 0.0
GOALTENDER GAMES GOALS W-L AVG.
Ryan Thomson 13 46 8-5-0 3.68
Mat Gershater 1 4 1-0-0 4.00
Shots—Thomson 448, Gershater 20. Saves—Thomson 402, Gershater 16. Shootout saves—0. Shootout goals allowed—0. Shutouts—Ryan Thomson 1. Empty net goals—0.
SCORE BY PERIODS 1ST 2ND 3RD OT TOT
Opposition 17 23 9 1 50, 3.6
Sun Valley 27 16 30 0 73, 5.2
Two-goal games (11)— Ryan Enrico 3, Bryan O'Connell 2, Cody Proctor 1, Jon
Duval 1, Jordan Pritchett 1, Chad Levitan 1, Matt Ward 1, Bryan Winkler 1.
Three-goal hat tricks (or more) (3)—Bryan O'Connell 2, Chad Levitan 1.
Game-winning goals (2)—Danny Ward 1, Jordan Pritchett 1.
Power play goals (13-56, 23%)—Taylor Rothgeb 3, Ryan Enrico 2, Jordan Pritchett 2, Chad Levitan 2, Bryan O'Connell 2, Blake Jenson 1, Vilnis Nikolaisons 1.
Power play goals (opposition): 17-81, (21%).
Suns shorthanded goals (8)—Ryan Enrico 3, Bryan O'Connell 2, Matt Ward 1, Danny Ward 1, Chad Levitan 1.
Shorthanded goals (opposition): 3.
Season penalty minutes: SV 315, opponents 214.