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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 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 December 17 - 23, 2003


The 2003-04 Sun Valley Suns pose before practice last Wednesday at Sun Valley Skating Center. Front, from left, Ryan Thomson, Luke Smith, Frank Salvoni, assistant captain John Stevens, captain Chris Benson, Vilnis Nikolaisons, assistant captain Jamie Ellison, Eric Demment, Paul Baranzelli and David Stone. Back, from left, head coach John Ellison Sr., Kris Webster, John Miller, Kevin Bullock, Patrick Finnegan, Brian Watts, Rohan Verplank, Caleb Baukol, Ryan Enrico, Brad Stansberry, Josh Jacobson, Chris King, Ivars Muzis and Chris Warrington. Express photo by Willy Cook

New blood pumps up the Suns family

Eight new players, new coach
as 24-game season opens

Express Staff Writer

Ice hockey, a tight-knit world of tape, sticks, beer and chipped teeth, is the ultimate family trip.

Brothers play and scrap with brothers, fathers nod approvingly and there are more connections on and off the ice than a surround sound system.

Exhibit One is the 2003-04 edition of the Sun Valley Suns men’s hockey team, which opens its 24-game winter schedule with a two-game series against the Portland (Ore.) Checks Friday and Saturday, Dec. 19-20.

John Ellison Sr., new Sun Valley Suns coach. Express photo by Willy Cook

The new coach is the father of one of the Suns most dangerous scorers. A new defensive pair features a Finnegan and a Baranzelli—Minnesota-bred nephews of longtime Suns star defenseman John "Bump" Finnegan.

Two new players come from tiny Rhode Island, so they must know each other, and the new goalie has drawn comparisons to Tony Benson, the brother of the Suns’ assistant coach and 14th-year forward Chris Benson.

Of course, Latvians Vilnis Nikolaisons and Ivars Muzis might as well be brothers, and David Stone, the third-string goalie, once taught both current Suns goalies how to play the position in Flagstaff, Ariz. 14 years ago.

Speaking of scoring siblings, there is no brotherly love lost between Suns chief referee Bobby Noyes and Jamie Ellison, the three-time Suns scoring king who had to harass all-time scoring leader Noyes from the peanut gallery because of shoulder surgery last year.

Which brings us to the main point—the brotherly bond is strongest when hockey teams are successful, and the new-look Suns have the potential to be one of the most successful teams in 29 seasons of Sun Valley hockey.

The Suns (472-175-28) will debut their 29th season against Portland Friday and Saturday. They’ll have a full 20-game home schedule instead of last winter’s erratic shortened season due to a lack of available ice time here.

Hockey fans will benefit, because, as the television ad says, the more hockey you watch, the tougher you get.

"We have a good, solid, high-level competitive team," said first-year head coach John Ellison. "We’ve raised our skill level and ability to compete."

That’s not just coach talk, either.

"This is the fastest, best-shooting Suns team I’ve seen," said Ketchum-bred goalie David Stone last week. And Stone saw quite a few pucks while manning the Suns back-up cage position for eight years through 1999.

Coach Ellison added, "Even though we lost 10 players from last year, we have added eight new players to the roster. They’re faster, younger, and many have college hockey backgrounds. They’re high-quality players. You’re going to be in for excellent, fast, hard-hitting hockey this winter."

Ellison, 68, a retired Alaskan bush pilot, assisted player-coach Chris Benson behind the bench last winter. Only the sixth Suns coach in 29 years, Ellison is the first who hasn’t been either a Suns player or ex-player.

Said Ellison, who started coaching Squirts hockey in Alaska 25 years ago, "I think it’s a wonderful challenge. I’ll try to get the team to function as a team, and keep the enthusiasm up, first and foremost. Our first goal is to have fun. Nobody gets paid for it."

The father of Jamie Ellison, John Ellison has changed the way the Suns run their practices. He plans to introduce other novel ideas—novel to Sun Valley, anyway—like shot charts, plus-and-minus ratings and video-taping.

"I’ll bring in some of the systems I’ve learned," said Ellison, who said it’s very difficult to be a player/coach like Chris Benson has been for the Suns the last four years. "There will be a change in attitude and a change in the ways things are done."

Happily, Ellison has inherited an abundance of talent, which allows a valuable skater like fourth all-time leading Suns scorer Chris Benson to concentrate on his skating duties.

The new goalie is 25-year-old Ryan Thomson, a 5-8, 165-pounder who resembles Suns Hall of Fame goalie Tony Benson (88-42-7 in 10 Suns seasons ending in 2000). "We’ve strengthened our goaltending with the addition of Ryan," said Ellison.

Ellison added, "Ryan is extremely quick, very solid on his angles, and has a very fast glove. He’s quick to come out and challenge shooters." Thomson and fifth-year goalie Matt Gershater both came from Flagstaff, where David Stone coached them in Squirts.

"I coached Ryan," said Stone. "Now he’s coaching me."

Joining his cousin Baranzelli (15 goals last season, 35 in two Suns seasons) on defense is 23-year-old Patrick Finnegan, a 5-10, 190-pound left shot from Duluth. Finnegan played at Duluth East, and also at Val Gardena, Italy and Juniors in Ontario, Canada.

Finnegan said, "All the new guys have good things to bring to the team. We’ve got lots of skilled guys."

The rookie class of Sun Valley Suns skaters features: Front, goalie Ryan Thomson; back row, from left, Josh Jacobson, Chris Warrington, Brad Stansberry, Chris King, Patrick Finnegan and Ryan Enrico. Not shown is Kevin Bullock. Express photo by Willy Cook

The Rhode Island connection has Chris King, 26, a 5-10, 180-pound left-shooting forward who played four years at Bowdoin College and also in France and Norway, plus Chris Warrington, 25, a 6-2, 210-pound left-shooting defenseman who was Academic All-Ivy while playing four years from 1997-01 at Brown University.

"We have eight defensemen this year and it’s going to be interesting," said coach Ellison, who plans to line up Warrington and second-year Sun Eric Demment, 26, from Williams College as his first defensive pairing.

Few hockey players in Idaho come from Hoboken, N.J., but lightning-quick Ryan Enrico, 23, is from Sinatra’s city on the west bank of the Hudson. Enrico, a 5-7, 160-pound right shot, played left wing at New England College in Henniker, N.H.

"Enrico has tremendous speed," said coach Ellison, who will match the new forward up with Chris King and veteran right wing John Miller. "Every one on that line is super fast."

The first line, of course, features left wing Luke Smith, center Jamie Ellison and right wing Vilnis Nikolaisons. Their scoring potential is well established. "They know each other and anticipate so well," the coach said.

Smith (18 goals, 16 assists) led the Suns in scoring during last winter’s 12-6 campaign. Nikolaisons, the 1999 Suns scoring champ, has been the team’s scoring runner-up the last four years. Jamie Ellison (185 points in 76 games from 2000-02) is healthy and raring to go after shoulder surgery.

Veteran leadership is also provided by John Stevens, Kris Webster, Ivars Muzis and Brian Watts. All in all, as coach Ellison said, "Our team is one of the top senior teams in the nation."

Ellison added, "The players continue their active involvement in the community with their Boulder Mountain Tour aid station each February, coaching youth teams during the winter and helping scoop poop during the annual Ketchum Wagon Days parade.

"The Suns are the community’s team. We need continued support to make sure there will be a Sun Valley Suns team, now and in the future."



Sun Valley Suns
Roster for 2003-04

Listed are player names, ages, years with the 2003-04 Sun Valley Suns team, hometowns and previous hockey teams. Average age of this year's team is 29.0, one-and-a-half years older than last year.


Matt Gershater, 25, 5th year Flagstaff, Ariz. Great Falls Jrs/Univ. of Saint Thomas

Ryan Thomson, 25, 1st year Flagstaff, Ariz.. New England Coll./Anchorage Aces

David Stone, 35, 10th year Ketchum S.V. Junior Hockey Association


Kris Webster, 30, 10th year Ketchum S.V. Junior Hockey Association

Ivars Muzis, 30, 6th year Riga, Latvia Juniors Riga

Paul Baranzelli, 23, 3rd year Virginia, Minn. Junior B, Minnesota

Eric Demment, 26, 2nd year Etna, N.H. Williams College/France

Patrick Finnegan, 23, 1st year Duluth, Minn. Duluth East/Val Gardena Hockey Club

Chris Warrington, 25, 1st year Slatersville, R.I. Brown University

Josh Jacobson, 26, 1st year Mound, Minn. Hibbing Community College


Chris Benson, 36, 14th year Cottage Grove, Minn. Univ. of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.)

John S. Miller, 40, 11th year Darien, Conn. New Hampton Academy

Brian Watts, 34, 11th year Melrose, Mass. Hobart College

John Stevens, 31, 9th year Anchorage, Ak. Univ. of Scranton

Jamie Ellison, 31, 8th year Anchorage, Ak. Northern Arizona/Herferd Devils (Germ.)

Vilnis Nikolaisons, 29, 6th year Riga, Latvia Juniors Riga

Luke Smith, 37, 6th year Rye, N.Y. Dartmouth College

Caleb Baukol, 34, 5th year Great Falls/Missoula, Mt. Univ. of Montana/WSU

Frank Salvoni, 35, 2nd year Natick, Mass. Avon Old Farms/Lake Forest College

Mike Selhay, 30, 2nd year Anchorage, Ak. Univ. of Eau-Claire (Wisc.)/Juniors

Rohan Verplank, 26, 2nd year Crested Butte, Colo. Univ. of Colorado

J.J. Hanley, 23, 2nd year Anchorage, Ak. S.V. Junior Hockey Association/Williams

Chris King, 26, 1st year North Smithfield, R.I. Bowdoin College

Kevin Bullock, 26, 1st year Sun Valley S.V. Junior Hockey Association

Brad Stansberry, 27, 1st year Sun Valley S.V. Junior Hockey/Univ. of Colorado

Ryan Enrico, 23, 1st year Hoboken, N.J. New England College (Henniker, N.H.)


Head coach—John Ellison Sr. (1st year). Assistant coach—Chris Benson.

General manager—John Stevens

Financial officer—Carolina Stevens

Director of Officials—Bobby Noyes

Team doctor—Dr. Frank Batcha

Security—Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments

Merchandise—Sun Valley Sunsets and Fury

Captain—Chris Benson

Assistants—John Stevens, Jamie Ellison


Sun Valley Suns 2003-04 Ice Hockey Schedule

Sun Valley's amateur men's hockey team, entering its 29th season of competition, has a 24-game schedule including 20 games on home ice and 4 games away from home. All 2-game home series are played Friday and Saturday nights at Sun Valley Skating Center.


December 19-20 Portland (Ore.) Checks (Home)
January 2-3 Boise Blades (Home)
January 9-10 Tahoe Lakers (Away)
January 23-24 Minneapolis (Minn.) Green Mill (Home)
February 6-7 Bucks Furniture (Minn.) (Home)
February 13-14 Michigan Jets (Home)
February 27-28 Dallas South Stars (Home)
March 5-6 Boston Hockey Club (Home)
March 12-13 Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose (Home)
March 19-20 Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose (Away)
March 26-27 New England Wings (Home)
April 2-3 Connecticut Camels (Home)

NOTES—All home games at Sun Valley Skating Center begin at 7 p.m. There are three 20-minute periods. Games last about two-and-a-half hours. Ticket prices are $6 general admission, $3 for kids ages 5-12, free for children under age 5.

Spectators are asked not to bring alcoholic beverages into the arena. Refreshments and food are sold in the rink. Parking will be allowed in the two lots just to the western side of the rink, but no parking will be permitted on Dollar Road. In addition, spectators can park in the main Sun Valley parking lot by the village.



City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

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.