For the week of March 31, 1999  thru April 6, 1999  

Season fizzles for Suns at Fond du Lac

Nationals nearly a bust for 1998 champs

You can’t win every game and it’s tough to repeat as national champions.

That’s what the Sun Valley Suns discovered last week during the eight-team USA Hockey Senior U.S. National Championship tournament at Fond du Lac, Wisc.

The defending champion Suns lost their first two games 5-2 and 7-3 to Minneapolis Green Mill and Detroit Raters, then stayed alive with a 9-4 victory over host Fond du Lac Saturday night.

Using a tiebreaker formula based on goal differential, the Suns fortunately emerged from their four-team pool and advanced to Sunday’s semi-finals despite their 1-2 tournament record.

Sunday morning, the Suns clashed with the Portage Lake (Mich.) Flyers in a rematch of last year’s national championship game won by the Suns 5-2.

In contrast to last year, the Suns couldn’t contain Flyers scorer Justin Marcum.

Marcum scored a 3-goal "hat trick" giving Portage Lake a 3-0 lead after two periods. The Suns fought back and trailed 3-2 and 4-3, but Portage Lake scored a power-play goal with less than five minutes to play and ousted the Suns 5-3.

Portage Lake went on to win the U.S. tournament 4-1 over the Seattle Indians.

And Bucks Unfinished Furniture of Bloomington, Minn. captured the four-team U.S. Elite tournament at Fond du Lac. The Bucks scored with four seconds left in regulation to tie 1998 champ New York St. Nicks and then won in OT.

The Suns (16-10) finished the tournament tied for third place. But Sun Valley just didn’t have a spark in the season’s homestretch, losing six of its final seven games.

Coach Tim Jeneson said, "We weren’t as willing this year to do what needed to be done.

"We were playing so well in the middle of the season—passing well and moving the puck. Then we went flat toward the end. I just couldn’t get the team motivated."

Opponents outscored Sun Valley 21-17 at nationals and Suns scorers managed just 38 points, 30 fewer than 1998.

Steady pointgetters at nationals included Chris Benson 4 goals and 1 assist, Phil Hebert 2-3, Billy Tryder 2-2, Luke Smith 2-2 and Kris Webster 1-3. Goalie Tony Benson played every minute.

Chris Benson scored a hat trick and Smith added 2 goals in the 9-4 win over Fond du Lac—a game the Suns needed to win by 4 goals or more to stay alive.

Left wing Chas Riopel said, "I was very proud of our effort after losing the first two games. We played very well and with a lot of heart and desire."

More tournament notes and a 1999 Suns season scoring summary will be published in next week’s Express.


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