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For the week of Jan 30 - Feb 5, 2002


In overtime, Suns 
find a way to win

Ellison nets game winner 
in 6-5 OT thriller

Express Staff Writer

First-year Sun Valley Suns defenseman Paul Baranzelli came to play. The 6-0, 185-pounder from the Iron Range of Minnesota had a breakout game against a tough team.

The main event in Friday’s Suns-Bucks "Smoker" featured the goalies, from left, James "Bus" Moskos of the Suns and Gary "Third Man In" Thron of the Bucks. Both got an early shower, and the Suns capitalized on Thron’s absence to win 6-5 in overtime. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Suns first-year goalie James Moskos came all the way down the ice, ready to implement "The Law of Goalies" and fight a goaltender six inches taller and 60 pounds heavier.

The Sun Valley rink was packed for Friday’s game between the unbeaten Suns and the reigning USA Hockey National Elite champions Bucks Unpainted Furniture from Bloomington, Minn.

But the game and the franchise-record win streak seemed to be slipping away for the Suns, who squandered a 5-2 lead. Then all hell broke loose, Baranzelli and Moskos smack dab in the thick of things.

When the dust settled, Suns center Jamie Ellison and wing Vilnis Nikolaisons worked their telepathic passing magic and combined for the game-winning goal in an unlikely 6-5 Suns overtime triumph.

The Suns (14-0), having dodged a major bullet Friday, coasted to a 7-2 win Saturday that stretched Sun Valley’s two-season winning streak to 21 games—unbeaten in 22 games since an 8-7 loss to the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose last Feb. 24.

"All week I’d been hearing about how good the Bucks were," said Baranzelli, 21, who scored a hat trick in Friday's overtime win. "It’s fun to play against better competition.

"I scored the first goal and said okay. After the second one, I had a yogurt between periods and came out and popped the third one early. And then I got eight stitches in my head after the fight."

The fight erupted with 1:12 left in the five-minute overtime period. Baranzelli and Steve Wendorf of the Bucks rumbled just to the left of Bucks goalie Gary Thron. It was a good scrap, and Thron couldn’t help himself. He jumped right in.

As soon as Thron entered the fray as the third man in, Moskos, 23, left his cage and barreled down the middle of the ice from the opposite end. He tossed his gloves and stick away at center ice and got ready to become a test crash dummy on Thron’s larger body.

It’s called "The Law of Goalies." Moskos explained, "When there’s a tussle on one end and their goalie comes out and becomes the third man in, you’ve just got to go down and free up some of your guys."

Moskos didn’t exactly have the element of surprise in his arsenal. The little guy looked like a big bus screaming down a major Idaho grade.

"He saw me coming," said Moskos about Thron. The fact that Moskos ended up on his back, pummeled by Thron, didn’t bother the well-traveled goalie from Boston. Moskos said, "Neither one of us ended up too bad. Besides, he had six inches and 60 pounds on me."

Referee Bobby Noyes was left with the job of sorting it all out. Baranzelli and Wendorf were gone for fighting, right off. Thron drew a game misconduct for third man in, and Moskos was gone as well.

Two goalies gone, one minute and 12 seconds left in OT. While negotiators conferred and discarded equipment was retrieved, Matt Gershater skated out to relieve Moskos. But the Bucks had only one goalie, Thron.

Noyes said, "They told me their back-up goalie had a pulled groin. I said, dress somebody, but they didn’t. They wanted me to either end the game right there or let their goalie come back. I just told them it wasn’t my fault they didn’t have a goalie."

Playing without a goalie, the Bucks went with an extra skater up front, similar to an empty-net scenario. They needed to kill off 72 seconds and argue their way out of a shootout and settle for a 5-5 tie.

Ellison and Nikolaisons dashed those Bucks hopes.

The faceoff was at center ice. Ellison took it and won it and the puck skidded into the Bucks zone, pursued quietly but ferociously by Nikolaisons. In one motion Vilnis swept the puck into the slot.

Ellison hit the back of the empty net—nine seconds after the faceoff.

"We should have held them in the third period," said Moskos (35 saves), who had made some great saves in the second before allowing two soft goals in the third. Meanwhile, Baranzelli was beaming.

"Hey, we’ll come in with a good record against Jackson Hole and hope for another big weekend," he said.

Ellison (a team-leading 7 points weekend) scored twice while five other Suns scored single goals in Saturday’s 7-2 victory. Gershater made 47 saves for his eighth win.


Next up, the Moose

Known for their trash talking when the going is good, the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose return to Sun Valley Skating Center this weekend for the first two games of a home-and-home series with Sun Valley.

Opening face-offs are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1-2. The Moose enter with a 14-3 record including a 5-2 and 4-1 sweep of the visiting Chicago Chargers in their last action Jan. 18-19 in Jackson Hole.

The Sun Valley Suns, stronger and deeper than in many winters, will be looking to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Moose—a skid in which Jackson Hole has poured it on, outscoring the Suns 63-35.

The Moose have publicly dissed the Suns during their recent successes, essentially calling Sun Valley an old team and a fading franchise.

It’s a match-up between two of the Northwest’s best Senior A hockey squads that contrasts the Suns’ longevity—Sun Valley is in its 27th season—with Jackson Hole’s young program, now in its fifth year.

Last winter the Moose really beat up on the shorthanded and injured Suns, winning 6-0 and 8-7 on Sun Valley ice last February 23-24. They outshot the Suns 74-54 and outscored their hosts 14-7 for the weekend.

Unlike many visiting teams, the Moose brought so many players in 2001 that they outnumbered the Suns.

The 6-0 shutout was the first time the Suns had been blanked at home in five years. In the finale, the Suns squandered 3-0, 4-1 and 6-3 leads. The Moose rally was fueled by a second-period flurry of three goals in an amazing 24 seconds.

In the four-year rivalry, the Moose lead 10-5-1. The Moose placed second in the National Senior A tournament in 2000, but exited early last April.

This year, the Moose have weathered injuries to their two goaltenders and have 10 games remaining including home-and-homes with Sun Valley.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.