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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of February 26 - March 4, 2003


Moose give Suns some humble pie

5-3, 8-3 sweep at Snow King Center

Express Staff Writer

Slowed by lack of ice time, the Sun Valley Suns weren’t at the top of their game last weekend in their big showdown at Snow King Center. The Jackson Hole Moose were.

The Moose (18-5-1), checking like crazy and maximizing their speed and quickness advantage, pounded away and came away with 5-3 and 8-3 victories over the Suns (11-5).

Eric Demment, first-year Suns defenseman, wards off T.C. Harris of Jackson Hole during Friday’s 5-3 Moose victory. Express photo by Willy Cook

Starring in goal for the Moose, winners of six straight and 11 of their last 12, was ex-Suns forward Mark Morningstar, 29, from King of Prussia, Pa. "Star" (57 saves weekend) got plenty of help up front.

Fifteen Moose players notched points led by Michigan’s Eric Rahilly, a grinding little bullrider who scored a pair Friday, and Gregg Gripentrog, the all-time leading Moose scorer from Stillwater, Minn. with two Saturday.

The Suns got a pair of Friday night goals by their leading scorer Luke Smith (14-15 for 29 points) and two weekend goals by perhaps their best player on the ice last weekend, defenseman Eric Demment.

Vilnis Nikolaisons (left) gives Gregg Gripentrog a piece of his mind. Express photo by Willy Cook

"We were just one click off all weekend," said Demment, the only rusher to consistently crack the Moose trap. "It got more and more frustrating."

Suns player/coach Chris Benson said about the Moose, "They’re a deep team with three strong lines. Morningstar played well. He steered things to the corner and is very good with the puck. Morningstar breaks the puck up ice better than many defensemen.

"Give them credit. They’re a pretty good hockey team. They’ve definitely got a good transition game. Their forwards threw a hard forecheck and had us reeling. And the Moose defense locked us up."

Sun Valley, exiled from its own rink for two weeks, didn’t have much to cheer about.

Saturday’s brawl featured, in the front, Rohan Verplank (in black) and Jackson Hole’s Dustin Stolp and, at the rear, Matt O’Hare pummeling Eric Rahilly. Express photo by Willy Cook

The Suns were flat Friday, Benson said. They had difficulty breaking the puck out of their zone. When they did control the puck in the Moose zone, they couldn’t finish.

Timing is everything in hockey and the Suns weren’t having one. Their passing was a little off. Their power play was ineffective. Their forward lines and defensive pairs didn’t have any continuity.

"Chemistry was a little off," said Benson. "It all goes back to not skating."

Friday night, it took the Suns six minutes to get off their first shot. The Moose moved the puck well on their first power play and scored first on a bang-bang play from Aaron Ackley to T.J. Thomas.

Ivars Muzis drills a slapshot in Saturday’s game. Express photo by Willy Cook

Rahilly broke behind the Suns defense and beat Suns goalie James Moskos with a backhand for a 2-1 lead after one period. It was an uphill battle when the Moose scored on a long shot early in the second—and the Suns couldn’t convert on a five-on-three power play opportunity.

John Stevens made a little flip pass and sent Smith in on a breakaway for a 3-2 game but that’s as close as the Suns got. And on Saturday they weren’t close at all as the Moose exploded for a 4-0 lead.

Vilnis Nikolaisons tries to get a puck past Moose goalie Mark Morningstar in Friday’s 5-3 Moose win. It wasn’t easy. Express photo by Willy Cook

No one summed up the series better than Nathan Niemela, father of Suns defenseman Ben Niemela who drove with his family all the way from Minnesota for the games.

Niemela gave the Moose total credit by saying, "They were making most of our mistakes."

Check the Express Web site for a complete summary of last weekend’s games and current Suns season statistics.


Moose 5, Suns 3

Sun Valley Suns 1 1 1 3
Jackson Moose 2 2 1 5

FIRST PERIOD—(1) Moose, T.J. Thomas 9 (Aaron Ackley, John Curry), 9:48, power play goal. (2) SV, Luke Smith 13 (Ivars Muzis), 13:01. (3) Moose, Eric Rahilly 8 (Charlie Ridolf), 17:48.

SECOND PERIOD—(4) Moose, Rahilly 9 (Curry), 2:08. (5) SV, Smith 14 (John Stevens), 6:58. (6) Moose, Joe Casey 28 (Chris Demarco), 11:43.

THIRD PERIOD—(7) SV, Eric Demment 5 (Vilnis Nikolaisons), 12:36. (8) Moose, Dustin Stolp 11 (Demarco, Curry), 14:54.

SHOTS ON GOAL—For Sun Valley 8-15-11 for 34; for Jackson Hole 15-21-9 for 45.

GOALIES— SV, James Moskos (40 saves, 3-2-0 season record); Jackson Hole, Mark Morningstar (31 saves, 11-5-1 season record).

NOTES—Luke Smith couldn’t believe his good fortune on the first Suns goal. He won the draw deep in the Moose zone and the puck went back to Ivars Muzis on the left point. Smith said he wasn’t touched by any Moose player as he skated toward the net, which meant he had an easy time tipping Muzis’ slapshot past Mark Morningstar for the first goal of the weekend. It was one of the few times the Moose didn’t put a body on the Suns….Suns goalie James Moskos flicked out his right foot and made a great save on Bryan Hannifan’s two-on-oh shot midway through the first period. Shortly afterwards, Paul Baranzelli’s penalty sent the Moose on the power play, and Jackson Hole scored its first goal. Like his teammates, Moskos didn’t have his best game. "James had a little trouble controlling the rebounds. He needed to get a whistle for us sometimes," said coach Benson….In contrast, Moose goalie Morningstar started warming up in the second period and he made some fine saves—on John Stevens, Baranzelli and Chris Benson. He only got beat once in the pivotal second period, on the Luke Smith breakaway. It might have been a different game if the Suns had poked home one of several good shorthanded chances at the end of the second, but they couldn’t finish. There was some luck involved as well. "A couple of nice bounces went Jackson’s way," said Benson.….The Suns had a little momentum going in the third period after Vilnis Nikolaisons set up Demment for the third goal and a 4-3 game. But the visitors got a bad break when Luke Smith mistakenly swept the puck into the Suns net—as he was trying to clear it to the boards. It was the fifth goal and it was a killer…..A cross check by Baranzelli punched out a couple of T.J. Thomas’ teeth late in the third period. Thomas said it was the first time he’d lost teeth, going back through junior hockey. Paul’s father Carl Baranzelli said he feared retaliation against his son in Saturday’s game, but coach Benson said that wasn’t the reason he moved Baranzelli back to defense Saturday. "We needed some more speed on defense because they were getting around us," said Benson….Suns first two forward lines were Vilnis Nikolaisons-Tom Forti-Paul Baranzelli, John Stevens-Luke Smith-Chris Benson, with Caleb Baukol-Frank Salvoni-Matt O’Hare on a third line and Rohan Verplank and J.J. Hanley rotating in. Defensemen were Eric Demment-Kit Hughes, Ivars Muzis with Scott Carmack and Ben Niemela ….The most effective line was the Luke Smith line. The Moose threw a collar around Forti’s line. And Demment was the only defenseman to break the puck out consistently for the Suns. "We had some weak efforts trying to get it out of the zone," said Benson.….After the post-game party, one devoted Suns fan was "pulled over walking," by the Jackson Hole police and was asked to summon a cab for his ride back to the hotel.


Moose 8, Suns 3

Sun Valley Suns 0 1 2 3
Jackson Moose 4 1 3 8

FIRST PERIOD—(1) Moose, Gregg Gripentrog 16 (T.C. Harris, Ridolf), 8:24. (2) Moose, Adam Patterson 2 (unassisted), 10:14. (3) Moose, Ridolf 4 (unassisted), 16:40.(4) Moose, Stolp 12 (Thomas, Ackley), 16:55.

SECOND PERIOD—(5) SV, Demment 6 (Stevens, Nikolaisons), 7:52. (6) Moose, Bryan Hannafin 13 (Casey), 13:34.

THIRD PERIOD—(7) Moose, Casey 29 (Wade Clarke, Nick Dolentz), 0:17. (8) Moose, Gripentrog 17 (Ridolf, Clarke), 0:53. (9) SV, Kit Hughes 4 (Smith, Frank Salvoni), 12:54. (10) SV, Stevens 7 (Tom Forti), 17:58. (11) Moose, Rahilly 10 (Josh Theken), 19:06.

SHOTS ON GOAL—For Sun Valley 10-11-8 for 29; for Jackson Hole 12-6-13 for 31.

GOALIES— SV, Matt Gershater (23 saves, 7-3-0 season record); Jackson Hole, Mark Morningstar (26 saves, 12-5-1 season record).

NOTES—Nearly two feet of new snow put a smile on everyone’s face. Some said it was the best skiing at Jackson Hole in years…."I thought we played a little better Saturday. We had a good second period. But they got that early lead," said Benson….Smith (2-1 for 3) and Stevens (1-2 for 3) were the leading Suns scorers this weekend….In all, the Moose had 15 different scorers led by former University of Connecticut skater Charlie Ridolf, 23, of West Warwick, R.I. (1-3 for 4 points)…. Paul Baranzelli moved back to defense tonight, and the Suns surprisingly opened up the game with their third forward line of Caleb Baukol-Matt O’Hare-Rohan Verplank. "We wanted that third line to go out and create a little havoc. I thought they did a good job," said coach Benson….O’Hare enlivened the crowd when he picked a fight with Eric Rahilly in the second period. O’Hare definitely got the better of the fight. He thought he was winning until Rahilly snuck in a punch and broke O’Hare’s nose. While O’Hare and Rahilly were wrestling, another skirmish broke out between Rohan Verplank and Moose forward Dustin Stolp. Verplank did a good job as well, but he got twisted around and needed medical attention after the game for a pinched nerve/neck problem. Didn’t stop Verplank from showing up at the Log Cabin Saloon, where the Suns and Moose players converged at closing time….The teams switched uniforms tonight. On Friday, the Suns wore white and the Moose wore black. On Saturday, the Moose were back in their usual white and the Suns wore black….Vilnis Nikolaisons took exception to Moose players questioning his nationality—and Vilnis nearly got into a fight with Gripentrog….The other two forward lines were Vilnis Nikolaisons-Tom Forti-John Stevens, and Frank Salvoni-Luke Smith-Chris Benson. Rotating in was J.J. Hanley, who wore the "George Jacket," after the game. Defensemen were Eric Demment-Kit Hughes, Ivars Muzis-Baranzelli, Ben Niemela-Scott Carmack….Niemela left one of his three sticks in his car as a good luck charm, but nothing seemed to work for the Suns over the weekend….There was no Moose retaliation against Baranzelli tonight. It seemed to effect Baranzelli’s play, however, and the leading Suns goal scorer was pretty much a non-factor…..The first Suns goal was a thing of beauty—John Stevens carrying the puck down the right wing side and centering at just the right time for onrushing Demment to flip a shot past Morningstar….It looked like Chris Demarco was in the crease grappling with Scott Carmack when Jackson Hole scored its second goal, but the goal stood….The Moose countered with these lines: Bryan Hannifan-Joe Casey-Nick Dolentz, Gregg Gripentrog-T.C. Harris-Charlie Ridolf, Dustin Stolp-Eric Rahilly-T.J. Thomas. Defensive pairs were Adam Patterson-Chris Demarco, John Curry-Aaron Ackley with former Suns player Wade Clarke rotating in….Former Denver University skater Joe Casey leads the Moose with 29 goals and 17 assists for 46 points. Gripentrog has 17-22 for 39. The Moose have gotten great production from first-year T.C. Harris (18-10 for 28), Bryan Hannifan (13-14 for 27) and Nick Dolentz (9-15 for 24)…..Moose coach Dave Pfeifer did an excellent job matching up his lines all weekend. The 49-year-old first-year Moose coach from Moorhead, Minn. got the right players on the ice at the right times….Clarke is now the Snow King Center rink manager, taking the place of former Suns center Rip Kirby, who has moved to Palm Springs where he works at a golf course….The Moose now lead 14-7-1 in the six-year series and have won 10 of the last 11 games between the two teams at Snow King Center. In those 11 games at Snow King Center, the Moose have outscored the Suns 74-40….About 600 to 700 fans watched each game. The Suns had a smaller contingent of fans than last year, when there was a women’s hockey tournament going on at the same time….Suns coach Benson said the team plans to go down to Ice World in Boise and skate against the Boise Blades March 8-9. He understands the Sun Valley rink will become available for practice on Wednesday, March 12, which should give the Suns a little home ice practice before the Moose arrive in Sun Valley for the rematch Friday and Saturday, March 14-15.



2002-03 Sun Valley Suns
Season statistics

(11-5 overall: 10-2 home, 1-3 away)

as of February 12, 2003


Luke Smith 15 14 15 29 47.0
Vilnis Nikolaisons 16 12 12 24 4.0
Tom Forti 14 8 16 24 2.0
Paul Baranzelli 16 15 8 23 27.0
John Stevens 16 7 14 21 10.0
Eric Demment 15 6 13 19 29.0
Frank Salvoni 15 7 7 14 2.0
Chris Benson 11 5 5 10 16.0
John Miller 10 3 7 10 13.0
Kit Hughes     14 4 4 8 2.0
Scott Winkler 7 3 5 8 2.0
Ivars Muzis 16 2 6 8 30.0
Scott Carmack   14 3 4 7 19.0
Matt O’Hare 14 3 2 5 12.0
Mike Selhay 8 1 4 5 9.0
Ben Stauffer 4 2 2 4 6.0
Kris Webster 6 0 3 3 4.0
Perry Smiley     13 0 2 2 2.0
Caleb Baukol     16 1 0 1 8.0
Matt Gershater     11 0 1 1 8.0
Rohan Verplank 14 0 1 1 15.0
Ben Niemela 16 0 0 0 32.0
Jamie Ellison 1 0 0 0 2.0
James Moskos 6 0 0 0 0.0
J.J. Hanley 4 0 0 0 2.0
David Stone 2 0 0 0 0.0



Matt Gershater    10 34 7-3-0 3.40
James Moskos 4.5 18 3-1-0 4.00
David Stone 1.5 7 1-0-0 4.67

Shots—Gershater 308, Moskos 165, Stone 55.
—Gershater 274, Moskos 147, Stone 48.
Shootout saves
—Gershater 5.
Shootout goals allowed
—Gershater 3.


Opposition  22 22 14 2 60 3.8
Sun Valley  29 30 34 1 94 5.9



Two-goal games (15)—Luke Smith 3, Chris Benson 2, Tom
Forti 2, Vilnis Nikolaisons 2, John Stevens 2, Frank Salvoni 1, Eric Demment 1, Scott Winkler 1, John Miller 1.

Hat tricks or more (5)— Paul Baranzelli 2 (1 with 5 goals), Luke Smith 1 (4 goals), Frank Salvoni 1, Vilnis Nikolaisons 1.

Game-winning goals—Tom Forti 1.

Power play goals (15-54, 28%)— Vilnis Nikolaisons 2, Chris Benson 2, Eric Demment 2, Paul Baranzelli 2, Tom Forti 1, John Miller 1, Mike Selhay 1, Luke Smith 1, John Stevens 1, Frank Salvoni 1, Ivars Muzis 1. Power play goals (opposition): 16-78, (21%).

Shorthanded goals (4)—Scott Winkler 2, Luke Smith 1, Vilnis Nikolaisons 1. Shorthanded goals (opposition): 3.

Season penalty minutes: SV 312, opponents 267.




Total record: 11-5

Record in 1-goal games: 1-2
Record in overtime: 1-2-0

Games scoring 9 or more goals: 3
Games scoring 7 or more goals: 4

December 20 (H) Boise Blades 3, Sun Valley 2 (OT)
December 21 (H) Sun Valley 6, Boise Blades 1
December 27 (H) Sun Valley 9, Portland Czechs 3
December 28 (H) Sun Valley 16, Portland Czechs 6
January 3 (H) Sun Valley 6, Richtone Painting 1
January 4 (H) Sun Valley 9, Richtone Painting 3
January 17 (A) Las Vegas Royals 7, Sun Valley 1
January 18 (A) Sun Valley 5, Las Vegas Royals 2
January 24 (H) Sun Valley 5, Seattle Indians 2
January 25 (H) Sun Valley 4, Seattle Indians 3 (OT)
January 31 (H) Trail Smoke Eaters 7, SV 6 (OT shootout)
February 1 (H) Sun Valley 7, Trail Smoke Eaters 4
February 7 (H) Sun Valley 6, Minneapolis Green Mill 2
February 8 (H) Sun Valley 6, Minneapolis Green Mill 3
February 21 (A) Jackson Hole Moose 5, Sun Valley 3
February 22 (A) Jackson Hole Moose 8, Sun Valley 3


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