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Traveling from the mountains to the cornfields, the Sun Valley Suns High School hockey team faced its greatest challenges of the year.

With great valor and skill, the Suns notched two wins in their first two games, but ran into worthy adversaries soon after in Omaha, Neb., during the 2021 USA Hockey-Chipotle High School Division II National Championships.

The scrappy and hungry Suns went 2-1 in pool play to enter the tournament bracket only to lose the opening round in a heartbreaker to the Omaha Junior Lancers, 7-4.

This wraps up the Suns 2021 season. In all, Sun Valley’s shortened campaign was certainly a success. The Suns finished the year with a 14-2 overall record and outscored their opponents 113-39.

Against the Lancers, the Suns found themselves down 2-0 early in the first period from back-to-back goals from Lancers’ forward Karl Grafelman.

However, Gage Whitehead scored the opening goal for the Suns to pull it close, 2-1.

Whitehead’s goal came off assists from Zane Lyon and Charles Roberts.

In the second period, Dawson Speth tied the game at 2-2 when he scored on an unassisted play.

Heading into the second intermission, the Lancers scored two goals to take the lead, 4-2.

Brock Burrell helped the Suns chip away at the lead by scoring just two minutes into the third period with an assist from Colby Speth.

With the score at 4-3, the Lancers answered immediately to keep the lead at a two-goal swing.

It was the theme of the game for the Suns. Every time Sun Valley made headway, the Lancers added extra space to maintain the lead.

Corwith Simmers scored off an assist from Zachary Benson to yet again pull within one goal, 5-4; however, Victor Knapp put the game away for the Lancers for good when he scored on back-to-back goals at the end of the third period to cool down the Suns.

Both Clayton Elsbree and Matt Meyers split time at the net.

Suns lose final game of pool play

Competing in the “Olympic” pool, the Suns went 2-1 overall (seven points), which was good enough to get them into the tournament play as the pool’s No. 2 seed.

The Suns opened the weekend on Thursday, April 15, with a convincing victory against NW Arkansas, then a comeback win against the Gillette Grizzlies.

Those two wins pitted the Suns against the Seminole Sharks of Tampa Bay, Fla., on Saturday morning.

The Sharks proved to be an earnest opponent by taking the Suns down in an overtime thriller, 6-5.

Seminole won in the shootout, 1-0, to take the pool.

With the victory, Seminole received the top seed by going 3-0 (eight points) in three days.

The Seminole Sharks opened the game with scores from Sebastian Middleton, Maverick Crupi and Carsan Cabral Downes to put the Sharks up 3-0 early in the first period.

The Suns, however, wouldn’t be denied. Dawson Speth and Max Jenson then returned the favor by scoring back-to-back goals.

The Suns then outscored the Sharks in the second period (3-1) to take the lead, 5-4.

Corwith Simmers, Zach Benson and Dawson Speth were the goal scorers in the second period.

Finn Lehtovirta managed to tie the game early in the third period for the Sharks at 5-5.

The game then headed into overtime and lasted through the extra play and into a shootout where Cabral Downes scored the winning shootout goal for the Sharks.

Leading the Suns on Saturday’s game was Dawson Speth who finished with two points (two goals, two shots-on-goal).

Suns 9, NW Arkansas 2

Sun Valley came out of the opening game ablaze.

Hot off their Idaho Amateur Hockey Association 18U and High School Championships, the Suns dominated NW Arkansas in the weekend’s first game for Sun Valley, 9-2.

To begin the game, the Suns came out flying high before Arkansas even had much of a chance.

Dawson Speth (Roberts assisted), Colby Speth (unassisted) and Burrell (Simmers assisted) scored in the first period to put the Suns up, 3-0.

Chase Rushton (Dawson Speth assisted) added one more goal in the beginning of the second period to push the Suns in a commanding 4-0 lead.

Tyler Freymark added Arkansas’ first goal of the game.

Top skaters for the Suns were Dawson Speth with three points (two goals, one assist), Colby Speth with three points (one goal, two assists) and Burrell also with three points (two goals, one assist).

Simmers, Rushton and Benson all finished with two points each (one goal, one assist). Roberts had one assist.

At the net, Elsbree played the whole game and compiled eight saves as the Sun Valley defense allowed only 10 shots-on-goal. On offense, the Suns had 26 shots-on-goal.

Suns 7, Grizzlies 5

The Suns then turned right around the next day and beat the Gillette Grizzlies of Wyoming, 7-5.

Despite outscoring their first two opponents 16-7, the second game’s score was deceiving as the Suns had a tougher time with the Grizzlies than the score let on. The Suns were favored, but fell to an early 2-1 deficit in the first period.

Simmers—the game’s star with seven points—finished with five goals and two assists. He managed to get the Suns on the board when he scored in the first period.

However, Mason Phelps and Ryan Jordan scored two more goals to move the Grizzlies’ lead to 4-1 at the end of the first.

The Grizzlies and Suns traded one goal each in the second period as the Suns entered the third period down 5-2.

That’s when the comeback began.

With Meyers at the net for the Suns, he held the Grizzlies to zero goals in the final period. The Suns’ offense then went on a tear with five goals—one from Zane Lyon and four from Simmers.

Seniors on the team were Colby Speth, Everett Burrell, Zane Lyon, Matt Meyers and Ashton Tanner.

Sun Valley Team Stats

(4 Games Played)

Goals—25, Assists—24, Total points—49, Shots on Goal—72, Power Play Goals—5, Penalties—15.

Top Suns Points Leaders

(4 Games Played)

12 points—Corwith Simmers (8 goals, 4 assists). 7 points—Colby Speth (1 goal, 6 assists). 6 points—Dawson Speth (5 goals, 1 assist); Everett Burrell (3 goals, 3 assists). 5 points—Zachary Benson (2 goals, 3 assists). 3 points—Charles Roberts (3 assists). 2 points—Chase Rushton (1 goal, 1 assist); Gage Whitehead (1 goal, 1 assist); Brock Burrell (1 goal, 1 assist); Zane Lyon (1 goal, 1 assist). 1 point—Max Jenson (1 goal).

Email the writer: sports@mtexpress.com

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