When new Park City Pioneer George Cantrall received reigning Mountain West Hockey League MVP Matt Long's pass at center ice midway through the second period of Saturday night's exhibition game against the Weber State Wildcats at the Park City Ice Arena, he decided it was time to show the college kids what hockey was all about.
Cantrall made it look effortless, dodging around a Wildcat defender before crossing up the goalie and sliding the puck easily into the net to put the Pioneers up 3-1. Cantrall's goal would end up being the deciding goal, as the Pioneers held off a late Weber State rally to earn a 3-2 victory.
"I know Jesse (the defender) from back home in Rock Springs," Cantrall said of the scoring play. "So I just slowed him down and as soon as he slowed down, I took a step up and used my size and motored in toward the net."
Pioneers captain David Imonti said he knew Cantrall, who stands at 6'3" and weighs 215 pounds and once served 321 penalty minutes over the course of a 59-game season, was more than just a fighter.
"Big George, he's a giant," Imonti said. "But I've said all along that if you find a way to get him the puck down low, he's going to score. Some guys didn't believe me, and some guys got proven wrong tonight."
Park City fell behind 1-0 before Larry Boniface scored the tying goal. Ken Anctil scored the Pioneers' second goal early in the second period.
After an 8-6 win in Friday night's exhibition game at Weber State University's home arena in Ogden, Imonti said the Pioneers played with more poise on Saturday night.
"[Friday] night, we were way worse defensively," he said. "The first game, everyone had the jitters with a big crowd in Ogden. They played their best players and they were double-shifting guys and stuff like that."
Saturday night in Park City, Imonti thought the Pioneers played a much better overall game, even though several different Park City players spent time in the penalty box.
"We found a way to battle," he said. "I wouldn't say there were terrible calls, but some of them were questionable. It's early in the season, so a lot of guys maybe aren't in top shape yet and are having to do a lot more stick work than skating. But I like the fact that our [power play and penalty kill] teams were clicking and everyone got a chance to play in all situations tonight and did well."
All things considered, Imonti said, he was pleased with the way the Pioneers performed this weekend.
"To have basically one practice and come out and beat a team of that level they're one of the best that there is in their division I think it shows a lot of character and a lot of promise for the season," he said.
But, Cantrall acknowledged, there are things to work on in the nearly two months leading up to the season opener against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in Murray on Oct. 26.
"The idea at practice is going to be to work on some power play and penalty kill stuff and get as much ice time as possible," he said.
"I think a lot of that will come with just getting on the ice more," Imonti agreed. "A lot of guys hadn't skated all summer."
Imonti said the Pioneers enjoy playing Weber State and are glad they were able to play a couple games before the season.
"Myself, Eric Milliron, Michael Spawton, Sean Baron, Kyle Gover and others we're all alumni of that program," he said. "That's why we ended up playing them. We do wish them well. As guys who played there, we want to see them do well and we want to see them bring notoriety to the school and the state, and I think they're good enough to do it."