You have to hand it to the Sun Valley Suns this season. Without a manager, coach, and an ever-changing cast of characters—even without John Stevens in the lineup—the team just keeps chugging along. And playing some pretty entertaining hockey as well.
In a freewheeling twin set against Vancouver Moto Ice, the Suns picked up their second straight series sweep of the season, winning 6-4 and 9-4, squeezing out of tight spots like the deft Ryan Enrico.
"They were definitely our best games of the season," wing Jon Duval said.
Trailing 4-3 on Friday, Sun Valley scored three unanswered goals in the third to win by two. Enrico nabbed the game-tying goal, Vilnes Nikolaisons got the go-ahead and Matt Ward the insurance, for his first career goal for the Suns. It was the second time in the contest the Suns came from one down. Vancouver netted the game's opening goal five minutes in, but less than a minute later the Suns equalized on a goal by Blake Jenson. Vancouver's Derek Franco scored again, but the Duval pressed on the red light to tie it 2-2.
Moto Ice twined two goals in the second, and Jamie Ellison, whose line (Nikolaisons/Duval) enjoyed a weekend of scoring that even Tiger would be impressed with (7 goals/9 assists), slotted one goal to keep pace heading into the final frame. Sun Valley goalie Ryan Thomson (23 saves) turned back seven shots in the third to keep Vancouver off the scoreboard and to lock up victory #1.
Friday night's game was remarkable in that only two penalties—total—were called. Last season's series wasn't as clean and friendly, and Saturday night was similarly whistle-free until double minors were called against both teams for a skirmish in the third. Frustration on Vancouver's part may have played a role in the fight, as Moto rooters watched as their team tried in vain to keep up with the Suns slick passing and dominance in the neutral zone.
Trading goals in the first period, the teams were tied 3-3 after the opening stanza, which was a breezy and wide open as Trevor Thomas' ripped shorts. Six goals were scored in less than 15 minutes, including Ellison's opening salvo six seconds into the game.
"I didn't even know I could skate from the red line to the blue line in six seconds," Ellison remarked.
Vancouver buried its first power play goal of the series less than two minutes into the second, and that was the last time they would find the back of the net. Nikolaisons and Ellison traded goals and assists in a span of 32 seconds to tie and take the lead, 4-3. Another 37 ticks later and Enrico and Cody Proctor teamed up to push the score to 6-4. Duval, skating with Ellison and Nikolaisons, netted goal #7. Jenson and Proctor scored the remainder, with Jeremy Mylymok feeding Proctor on a pretty back-door pass to put a stamp on a victory as impressive as an Al MacInnis slap shot.
The Suns outshot Vancouver 53-33 with Thomson stopping 27.
Rookie Cooper Miller took home the George Jacket for rocking and rolling on the ice.
Scoring for the weekend: Jamie Ellison 3/3; Vilnes Nikolaisons 2/4; Jon Duval 2/2; Cody Proctor 1/3; Jeremy Mylymok 1/3; Ryan Enrico 3/0; Blake Jenson 2/0; Trevor Thomas 0/2; Matt Ward 1/0; Billy Tryder 0/1; Sinjin Thomas 0/1; Taylor Rothgeb 0/1.
The Suns have another good series on tap with Bobby Farrelly's East Coast Guttersnipes, Jan. 22-23. Ticket proceeds will be donated to the Sawtooth Pony Club and Atkinson Park Penguins.