It’s pretty unusual for 25-year-old Sun Valley Suns right wing Bryan O’Connell to go through an entire two-game weekend ice hockey series without scoring a single goal.
The smooth skater from Taunton, Mass. with an eye for the net has led the Suns in scoring the past two winters with an amazing 43 goals in 25 games—and 10 hat tricks.
Good hockey players do positive things even when they’re not scoring, though. O’Connell was a perfect example during Friday night’s Suns home season opener against the Park City (Utah) Pioneers.
The Suns won 4-3 with a 33-27 shooting edge over the Pioneers and two power play goals—by Jon Duval and Scotty Winkler—in a good match-up at Sun Valley Skating Center.
It was a tight, well-played contest all the way down to the final buzzer—Suns 20-year-old goalie Cody Levitan (24 saves) coming up with big save after big save to keep the score close.
But the Suns (1-3) won their first game of the season when O’Connell started the game-winning play by stick-handling away from three Pioneer players in his own end and passing ahead to Ryan Enrico.
O’Connell’s linemates Enrico and Jon Duval finished the coast-to-coast rush on a lovely two-on-one—Duval stuffing his second goal of the game past Pioneers goalie Eric Moldenhauer with 11 minutes left.
All the Suns needed to do was hold off the Pioneers in the closing moments.
Helping their cause were two power plays—the first drawn by Suns rookie defenseman Doug Yeates on a slashing call, the second taken by O’Connell with three minutes left when he broke in alone on Moldenhauer and picked up another slashing call.
The Suns didn’t score on the power plays, but they skated off four full minutes still up 4-3.
Duval won a key faceoff in his own end after the Pioneers pulled Moldenhauer in favor of a sixth attacker with 36 seconds left, and the Suns prevailed.
It’s a great feeling when you win your first game of the season. Park City (1-6) enjoyed that feeling Saturday night when the wheels came off late for the Suns in an 8-3 Park City romp.
Taking a terrific break-out pass from Tommy Rupp. Park City forward Brian Babbitt broke open a close 4-3 game with a booming slapshot that eluded Suns goalie Ryan Thomson with three minutes left in the second period.
Babbitt added two more goals for his hat trick in a 12-second span midway through the third, then Castleford State’s Tom Gatta from New York slipped home a shorthanded goal for the 8-3 final.
Moldenhauer, the former Utah State goalie from Park City High School, made 41 saves Saturday to stymie the Suns’ hopes for a sweep. The Pioneers went 2-for-5 on the power play to complete a strong effort in the weekend nightcap.
Coming up: A Christmas holiday treat is the Future Suns youngsters clashing with the current Suns in a Dec. 26 home exhibition to raise money for youth hockey and the Brett Sammis Scholarship Fund. Opening faceoff is 7 p.m. next Wednesday on resort ice.
The Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Moose are the Suns’ guests for a big New Year’s weekend series Dec. 28-29 at Sun Valley Skating Center.
Suns Hockey Summary
Suns 4, PIONEERS 3
friday, dECEMBER 14
Park City Pioneers1113
Sun Valley Suns 2114
FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, Danny Ward 1 (Jamie Ellison), 2:36. (2) Park City, Scotty John 1 (Rob Christie), 14:28. (3) SV, Jon Duval 2 (Ward), 17:23, power play goal.
SECOND PERIOD—(4) Park City, Nicholas Liotta 3 (Mikey Diersen), 2:44. (5) SV, Scott Winkler 2 (Ward), 10:34, power play goal.
THIRD PERIOD—(6) Park City, Kory Scoran 1 (goalie Eric Moldenhauer), 5:01. (7) SV, Duval 3 (Ryan Enrico, Bryan O’Connell), 8:47, game-winning goal.
SHOTS ON GOAL—Park City 9-11-7 for 27; Sun Valley 12-12-9 for 33.
GOALIES—Park City, Eric Moldenhauer (29 saves, 0-4-0 record); Sun Valley, Cody Levitan (24 saves, 1-2-0 record).
OFFICIALS—Dave Patrie and Eric Wingard.
NOTES—Suns forward lines featured Ryan Enrico-Jon Duval-Bryan O’Connell, Scott Winkler-Jamie Ellison-Chad Levitan, and John Stevens-Charles Friedman-John Hildreth/Dalton Smith. The Suns had three sets of defensemen. They were Ivars Muzis-Danny Ward, Bryan Winkler-Trevor Thomas, Zak Greenawalt-Doug Yeates….The start of the second period was delayed 25 minutes after rink workers dealt with “a couple of resurfacer issues,” according to rink director Scott Irvine. The Zamboni cut a hole in the ice, which Irvine fixed by spraying from a 5-pound, CO2 capsule to freeze the down the ice after filling the hole with snow….. Park City skated four forward lines. They were Tom Gatta-Tommy Rupp-Brian Babbitt, P.J. Nelson-Sean Baron-Kevin Labatte, Rob Christie-Matt Long-David Imonti, Ken Anctil-Dan Anctil-Mikey Diersen/Nicholas Liotta. The defensemen were Kory Scoran-Aaron Dufford, Ben Wilner-Scotty John, and Levi Wegleitner……Each team had an apparent goal disallowed in a 2-minute span of the second period of a 2-2 tie game. Tom Gatta’s rebound goal of a Brian Babbitt slapshot was disallowed for having a player in the crease. Two minutes later the Suns had a goal waved off when the net was dislodged behind Pioneers goalie Eric Moldenhauer……Trying to preserve their 4-3 lead, the Suns benefited from two power plays down the homestretch. With 8 minutes left, Suns rookie defenseman Doug Yeates drew a slashing penalby by Brian Babbitt of the Pioneers. The Suns got another break when Bryan O’Connell swept into the Pioneers zone on a breakaway and was slashed for a penalty by Pioneers defenseman Levi Wegleitner with just 3 minutes left. The Pioneers killed off the penalty, then pulled goalie Moldenhauer with 36 seconds left in the game. Park City stuffed 6 skaters in the Suns zone trying for the equalizer, but Suns center Jon Duval won a key faceoff and the home team cleared the puck to seal the deal on its first victory of the 2012-13 season.
PIONEERS 8, suns 3
saturday, dECEMBER 15
Park City Pioneers2338
Sun Valley Suns1203
FIRST PERIOD—(1) SV, Zak Greenawalt 1 (Chad Levitan, John Hildreth), 11:48. (2) Park City, Dan Anctil 2 (Tom Gatta), 18:13, power play goal. (3) Park City, Rob Christie 2 (Matt Long, David Imonti), 19:55.
SECOND PERIOD—(4) SV, Dalton Smith 1 (Danny Ward), 4:30. (5) Park City, Kory Scoran 2 (Gatta), 6:22, power play goal. (6) Park City, Imonti 1 (Aaron Dufford, Nicholas Liotta), 15:26. (7) SV, Hildreth 1 (Chad Levitan), 15:50. (8) Park City, Brian Babbitt 4 (Tommy Rupp), 16:32.
THIRD PERIOD—(9) Park City, Babbitt 5 (Christie, Levi Wegleitner), 13:13. (10) Park City, Babbitt 6 (Rupp), 13:25, hat trick goal. (11) Park City, Gatta 2 (Dan Anctil), 14:27, shorthanded goal.
SHOTS ON GOAL—Park City 12-10-14 for 36; Sun Valley 13-17-14 for 44.
GOALIES—Park City, Eric Moldenhauer (41 saves, 1-4-0 record); Sun Valley, Ryan Thomson (28 saves, 0-1-0 record).
OFFICIALS—Bobby Noyes and Pat Ballou.
NOTES—Suns forward lines featured Ryan Enrico-Jon Duval-Bryan O’Connell, Bradley Stanton/Doug Yeates-Chad Levitan-John Hildreth, John Stevens-Charles Friedman-Dalton Smith. The Suns had three sets of defensemen. They were Ivars Muzis-Zak Greenawalt, Bryan Winkler-Brian Slattery, Danny Ward-Trevor Thomas….By the end of the game, the Suns already had two players in the locker room. Defenseman Trevor Thomas received a fighting major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind on Park City’s Scotty John with 2:48 left in the third period. Fortunately, John got up quickly and didn’t miss a shift. Thomas will have to serve a 1-game suspension when the Suns play the Jackson Hole Moose over the Dec. 28-29 weekend. And Suns center Jon Duval drew an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and 10-minute misconduct with 2:16 remaining on the clock….. The Suns were still in the game, down 5-3, for most of the third period before the wheels came off in the final 7 minutes. Last year’s top scorer Bryan O’Connell, held scoreless for the weekend, had the best chances for Sun Valley in the third period. After John Stevens stole a puck in the Pioneers zone and drew a penalty early in the period, O’Connell’s wrist shot whistled just wide of Park City goalie Eric Moldenhauer on the power play. Midway through the stanza, Moldenhauer whipped out his glove and caught a blistering O’Connell shot on the short side. Shortly after, “OC” made a slick centering pass to Duval, but the Pioneers goalie went to his knees to stop a solid Duval chance…….Keeping the Suns in check for most of the game, Park City used 3 defensive pairs with Ben Wilner-Scotty John, Kory Scoran-Aaron Dufford, Ken Anctil-Levi Wegleitner….For the weekend the Pioneers put 14 players in the scoring and out-pointed the Suns 25-16 led by Brian Babbitt (3 goals/0 assists), Tom Gatta (1/2) and Rob Christie (1/2)……..Top Suns weekend scorer was defenseman Danny Ward (1/3)……….On the power play, the Suns were 2-for-5 Friday night and Park City was 0-for-2. The tables turned tonight as Park City was 2-for-5 and Sun Valley 0-for-6. For the season the Suns are 2-for-18 on the power play, opponents 5-for-12…..Former Park City High School and Utah State University goalie Moldenhauer has played in several memorable games in the Sun Valley barn in recent years. Three years ago, he made 47 saves and out-dueled Suns goalie Ryan Thomson in Park City’s 8-7 overtime victory as original Pioneer Mike Adamek from Lake Superior State scored the game winner. During that game the Suns made a miraculous comeback from a 7-3 third period deficit with 4 unanswered goals in a 3-minute span early in the third period. Five years ago, Moldenhauer made 40 saves but couldn’t stop Sun Valley’s Adam Swain, who scored the equalizer and OT game winner in Sun Valley’s 9-8 overtime triumph. And of course there was Sun Valley’s 12-2 romp over the Park City Silver Kings in 2006. Moldenhauer was called upon to make 35 saves in the first two periods alone, then was replaced in the third period by a female goalie, Natalie Tate. It was the first and only time a female goalie faced the suns…..The Suns-Pioneers series raised money for Sawtooth Pony Club.
2012-13 Sun Valley Suns final statistics
(1-3-0 overall: 1-1-0 home, 0-2-0 away)
Shots—Thomson 36, Levitan 113. Saves—Thomson 28, Levitan 100. Shootout shots—Levitan 5. Shootout saves—Levitan 3. Shootout goals allowed—Levitan 2. Shutouts—0. Empty net goals—0.
Sun Valley473115, 3.8
Two-goal games (1)—Jon Duval 1.
Three-goal hat tricks (or more) (1)—Chad Levitan1.
Game-winning goals (1)—Jon Duval 1.
Power play goals (2-18, 11%)—Jon Duval 1, Scott Winkler 1.
Power play goals (opposition): 5-12, (42%).
Suns shorthanded goals (1)—Chad Levitan 1.
Shorthanded goals (opposition): 1.
Season penalty minutes: SV 56, opponents 53.