Wednesday night you had a choice. You could have headed out to the Park City Ice Arena to watch the PCHS Miners' hockey team take on the Judge Bulldogs in the second round of the state high school playoffs. Or you could have stayed home to watch the Russian pairs figure skaters try not to lose and be sent to the Gulag.
You opted for the sequins and double Salchows? As the Knight Templar in "Indiana Jones" said, "You chose poorly."
In the best game of the season, Park City knocked off the two-time defending state champion Bulldogs 5-4 on Noah Pranschke's wicked wrist shot just nine seconds into overtime. The win kept Park City in the winner's bracket of the playoffs and pointed the Miners toward a showdown with southern division rival Uintah this Wednesday, Feb. 19, in Salt Lake City.
Park City was riding a 27-game home winning streak coming into the Judge game. Plus, it was Fan Appreciation Night, with the promise of free hot dogs, cupcakes, and the like after the game. The combination made for a huge, raucous crowd that rode the emotional ups and downs of the game.
"It was so loud," Miner assistant captain Harry Hanskat said afterwards. "Every hit, every near miss on our shots, the crowd went nuts. It was awesome."
And Park City didn't take long in giving the crowd what it wanted. Just over a minute into the game, senior winger Pranschke passed the puck to junior linemate Will Radovan in the right corner. Radovan found some space, drove toward the net and put a shot on Bulldog goalie Colin Bonk. Bonk made the save, but Radovan pushed in his own rebound to open the scoring at the 13:50 mark of the first.
From there, the defenses dominated, limiting shots in the period to eight for Park City and six for Judge. The period ended 1-0 Park City.
In the second, the Bulldogs quickly put the bite on any thoughts the Miners had about an easy win. A Miner defensive breakdown led to the tying goal just three minutes into the second. But Park City came right back at the 10:42 mark when senior center Carson Walker put a rebound off a Zack Slusher shot into an open Judge net.
However, less than a minute later, Judge took advantage of another defensive mistake to again knot the score. The period ended that way at 2-2.
"We're a little light on 'D' right now with two big injuries to David Jenkins and Sam Groves late in the season," said Miner head coach Aaron Dufford, commenting on the defensive difficulties. "That hurt us a bit on the back end."
The Miners took control of the game in the third. At 9:29, Hanskat took advantage of some jousting behind the net between senior linemate TJ Mayo and Judge defenseman Ben Keller. Hanskat grabbed the puck when it squirted free, quickly darted out in front, and beat Bonk in the five hole off the inside of his left pad.
Things stayed that way for the next seven minutes until Mayo broke in across the Judge blue line and ripped a wrist shot over Bonk's shoulder to put Park City up 4-2 with only 2:52 left. It looked like the game was in hand and the crowd let out its collective breath.
But you don't get to be two-time state champions by accident and Judge showed its mettle when another defensive mistake and a great individual effort resulted in two quick goals at 2:19 and 1:32. So much for the two-goal lead — the game ended regulation knotted 4-4.
With defibrillators readied for the now nervous crowd, the game went into a five-minute overtime.
The puck dropped and the line of Radovan, Pranschke and junior center Nixon Barber took turns with the puck as it entered the Bulldog zone. Radovan was closed off and passed to Pranschke just inside the top of the left faceoff circle. His perfectly placed wrist shot cleanly beat Bonk. Final: 5-4 Park City.
Park City is now one of four remaining undefeated teams, along with Viewmont and Murray from the northern division, and Uintah from the south. The Miners will face Uintah at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex, 645 South Guardsman Way. Should Park City win that game, the Miners will then play the Viewmont/Murray winner at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
Skip the ice dancing and the Ukrainian judge bribing and make plans to be there to help boost the Park City run toward a possible state hockey title.