Wednesday, March 9, 2011

OCís shootout goal silences Snipes in 9-8 classic

Over 1,000 fans watch Suns, Boston skate


Fifteenth-year Suns center Jamie Ellison had a great weekend against the Snipes. He scored the first shootout goal despite Jeff Nortonís hockey stick ice pounding as Ellison bore down on Snipes goalie Kevin McGowan for the shot. Photo by Willy Cook

It was a numbers game Friday when the Sun Valley Suns and East Coast Gutter Snipes faced off in the first game of the season's final men's hockey series. And what a game it was!

17 goals, 83 shots, four goalies, 600 avid fans, three McCarthys, one Farrelly, more than a dozen shamrocks on the Boston jerseys and one great comeback win for the host Suns.

But all that mattered in the final accounting was the letters game, and those letters were OC—as in first-year Suns wing Bryan O'Connell, the 23-year-old genius with his hands from Whitman, Mass. and Vermont's Castleton State College hockey.

Suns season scoring leader O'Connell (17 goals, 14 assists) played in 12 of the final 16 Suns games this season and scored three 3-goal hat tricks—one that finalized Friday's thrilling 9-8 Suns overtime shootout win over Bobby Farrelly's Snipes from the Boston area.

Suns coach John Burke said, "It was a real classic game at Sun Valley. Everyone gave their all. Their tanks were empty, and gas is expensive."

O'Connell's game winner came on the final shot of the three-skater shootout used to break the 7-7 deadlock.

The Suns had stormed back from a 3-0 first-period deficit to grab a 6-5 lead, only to lose it with two unanswered Snipes goals, and tie it again on O'Connell's second goal of the game with four minutes left.

Goalie Billy Cook, the second netminder of the game for the Suns, was the first hero of the 9-8 triumph when he flashed out his right leg and threw out his stick to stop Snipes shootout attempts by Boston forward Matt McCarthy and former Dartmouth College captain Billy Kelleher.

Suns center Jamie Ellison pumped home the first shootout goal—ignoring the stick-pounding distraction of Snipes' lovable lout Jeff "I got feelings, too, I'm not just a pretty face" Norton. Snipes defenseman Pat Walsh solved Cook for a 1-1 tie. It came down to O'Connell.

Burke's ace-in-the-hole.

O'Connell first came to Sun Valley with Farrelly's Snipes team several years ago. He frequently skates with goalie Farrelly and peppers the big guy with skate-around shots back East, in Plymouth County 20 miles south of Boston where O'Connell hails from.

But on Friday night in the mountains of Idaho, #00 Farrelly wasn't in the net when O'Connell circled around the mid-ice line. The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd buzzed in anticipation of his final shootout try. Kevin McGowan, 29, an ex-ECAC Northeast "Goalie of the Year" for UMass-Dartmouth, had relieved Farrelly.

"You know, when I come in against Bobby back home, he knows I try to deke him most of the time," said O'Connell. "I saw Bobby talking to their goalie before I took my shot, and I had a feeling that Bobby was telling him that I was going to try to deke him. So I knew I had to try to shoot.

"I had beat him twice before in the game, right over the pads and right under the glove, so I figured I'd go for it again."

That's what O'Connell did, blasting down the ice and ripping the net with a rocket that ripped the roof off of the packed Sun Valley Skating Center.

O'Connell's linemate Ryan Enrico and Ellison also scored twice Friday. Eighth-year defenseman Eric Demment (1 goal, 2 assists) had his best game of the season—active all over the ice, feisty on the blueline, and offensive-minded in front of the net to spark the Suns attack and comeback.

Enrico's hard-charging 13th goal of the season on a wrist shot made it 3-3.

Trailing 5-4 early in the third, Sun Valley jumped ahead for the first time on two pretty goals that revved up the crowd. Ellison cleverly hid behind Demment as the Suns collapsed on goalie McGowan. Ellison whipped home the equalizer.

After Demment's forechecking kept the puck in the Suns offensive zone, Ellison chased it down along the corner boards and spotted Demment streaking down the middle of the ice, all alone. Ellison hit Demment, who deked McGowan for the 6-5 go-ahead sticks-upraised goal.

O'Connell's game-tying goal that sent the decision into OT came with four-and-a-half minutes left, after a beautiful lead pass from Enrico. All in all, it was a great weekend for OC.

He knew his younger brother Jason, 21, was coming out from Whitman to visit. But his mother Francine quietly joined Jason for the trip from Massachusetts and surprised OC at the Pioneer last week.

And, yes, that was OC's brother Jason at Saturday's "Beat the Sun" second-intermission contest.

It took him three tries, but Jason finally cranked one through the puck-sized middle slot and won the grand prize of an autographed Suns shirt.

"Jason said he was going to do it. He called his shot. He said he's going to give the shirt to our grandfather," older brother Bryan O'Connell said.

It's been a terrific first winter for OC in Sun Valley and he plans to stick around.

O'Connell said, "Playing here has been unbelievable, I've never seen anything like it. This town loves hockey and is the coolest place to live. And I just love it when the crowd gets into it like this weekend."

They got into it a little less Saturday because the Snipes came to play, built a lead and split the series by a 9-6 score. East Coast's defense led by Pat Walsh bottled up the Suns scorers. The Snipes got two goals each by Scott Shaunessy, Billy Kelleher and Pete Smith.

Plus, goalie McGowan (19 saves) relieved Farrelly again at mid-game and did well shutting down the Suns shooters—including O'Connell on a high-flying streak across the crease.

O'Connell said, "Yeah, I saw him (McGowan) after Friday's game at Whiskeys and knew he felt remorse about that game. But he played really well against us Saturday."

The Suns (10-6-0) reached the double-digit victory mark this winter and inched ahead 3-2 counting number of victories in the five overtime games played against the Snipes. In six seasons, the teams have split 12 games right down the middle.

And you never know, but the Suns might have seen the last of their all-time leading scorers—good buddies and linemates Vilnis Nikolaisons (461 points) and Jamie Ellison (452).

It was uncanny the way they moved around the ice, passed to each other and always knew the whereabouts of each other. They played with passion and devotion to their teammates.

Ellison (2 goals, 5 points) enjoyed a great final weekend. And Nikolaisons finished another solid season of leading the Suns as captain. There are indications they might hang 'em up. If they do, the Suns won't see their likes again.

2010-11 Sun Valley Suns final statistics

(10-6-0 overall: 9-5-0 home, 1-1-0 away)

PLAYER GAMES GOALS AST. PTS. PMIN

Bryan O'Connell 12 17 14 31 2.0

Ryan Enrico 16 13 15 28 30.0

Chad Levitan 15 10 5 15 15.0

Jon Duval 14 5 10 15 43.0

Eric Demment 7 4 8 12 10.0

Jamie Ellison 7 4 5 9 6.0

Blake Jenson 10 3 6 9 6.0

Ivars Muzis 14 0 9 9 12.0

Matt Ward 15 3 5 8 10.0

Vilnis Nikolaisons 10 3 5 8 8.0

Taylor Rothgeb 15 6 1 7 6.0

Jordan Pritchett 4 5 2 7 4.0

Cody Proctor 12 3 3 6 11.0

Charles Friedman 12 1 5 6 8.0

Trevor Thomas 14 2 3 5 41.0

Zak Greenawalt 11 0 5 5 18.0

Sean Rynes 9 1 3 4 10.0

John Stevens 11 1 3 4 9.0

Bryan Winkler 5 2 1 3 8.0

Jeremy Mylymok 1 2 1 3 0.0

Josh Jacobson 12 0 2 2 28.0

Kris Webster 9 0 2 2 19.0

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

John Miller 2 0 1 1 0.0

Kellen Corrigan 3 0 1 1 0.0

Brett Gallagher 1 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 2 0 0 0 0.0

Peter Stevenson 2 0 0 0 0.0

Billy Cook 1 0 0 0 0.0

Cody Levitan 1 0 0 0 0.0

GOALTENDER GAMES GOALS W-L AVG.

Ryan Thomson 13 46 8-5-0 3.52

Mat Gershater 2 7 1-0-0 4.52

Billy Cook 1 4 1-0-0 7.50

Cody Levitan 1 9 0-1-0 9.00

Shots—Thomson 448, Gershater 37, Levitan 28, Cook 23. Saves—Thomson 402, Gershater 30, Cook 19, Levitan 19. Shootout saves—2 (Cook). Shootout goals allowed—1 (Cook). Shutouts—Ryan Thomson 1. Empty net goals—0.

BY PERIODS 1ST 2ND 3RD OT TOT

Opposition 23 29 13 2 67, 4.2

Sun Valley 28 22 36 2 88, 5.5

SUNS ALL-TIME SCORING LEADERS

36-season, 838-game franchise record 576-233-29

Years with Suns in parentheses

PLAYER, YEARS GOALS ASSISTS POINTS

1—Vilnis Nikolaisons (13) 173 288 461

2—Jamie Ellison (15) 169 283 452

3—Bobby Noyes (18) 195 213 408

4—Glenn Hunter (18) 67 295 362

5—John Finnegan (12) 109 223 332

6—Chris Benson (17) 160 163 323

7—John Stevens (16) 113 189 302

8—Billy Tryder (12) 120 151 271

9—Kurt Wenzell (9) 119 150 269

10—Jimmy Johnson (14) 93 170 263

14—Ryan Enrico (8) 102 121 223

15—Kris Webster (16) 82 138 220

21—John Miller (19) 68 117 185

25—Ivars Muzis (13) 55 120 175

35—Eric Demment (8) 47 84 131

48—Jon Duval (5) 31 63 94

55—Blake Jenson (6) 26 51 77

62—Charles Friedman (6) 21 32 53

65—Jeremy Mylymok (4) 14 35 49

69—Cody Proctor (4) 20 23 43

Caleb Baukol (11) 13 19 32

Bryan O'Connell (1) 17 14 31

Taylor Rothgeb (3) 17 9 26

Josh Jacobson (7) 5 20 25

Trevor Thomas (8) 8 16 24

Jordan Pritchett (3) 9 7 16

Chad Levitan (1) 10 5 15

Matt Ward (2) 7 7 14

GOALIE, YEARS GAMES GOALS W-L AVG.

Tony Benson (14—1990-00, 2007-10) 141 531 90-43-7 3.79

Dan Nee (9—1979-88) 213 814 150-57-6 3.82

Charlie Holt (4—1975-79) 72 189 57-12-3 2.62

Ryan Thomson (8—2003-11) 88 372 60-27-0 4.19

Mat Gershater (8—1997-98, 2000-04, 09-11) 53 219 37-15-1 4.12

David Stone (17—1986-2006) 55 233 33-16-5 4.24

Billy Cook (6—1999-02, 08, 10-11) 28 131 15-11-1 4.65

Cody Levitan (1—2011) 1 9 0-1-0 9.00




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