Whatever the reason, the Park City High School hockey team came out flat in its game against the Utah County Independent (UCI) Warriors Wednesday night, Dec. 19, at the Park City Ice Arena.
But like Santa, who despite hitting some turbulence over Timbuktu keeps on his merry way, the Miners still delivered another victory, 5-2. It was the team's 10th of the season, against just a single loss.
The win didn't impress Aaron Dufford, head coach of the Miners. "A win is a win," he said, "but a flat win before the meat of the season is tough to swallow. They all mean something from here on out."
He is referring to Park City's upcoming three games in January against the top three seeded teams from Utah high school hockey's Northern Division, followed by the playoffs in February. Depending on the outcome of the Alta/Uintah game, which will be played Dec. 22, Park City will end up the regular season as either the No. 1 or the No. 2 seed from the Southern Division.
"We were lacking some jump and tenacity," Dufford explained. "Our team thrives off of each other. Each and every player helps fuel the others by planting a nice hit or ripping a great shot. If a few of us are flat, the opposite is true. Laziness breeds laziness."
Maybe a threat to be sent to the Island of Misfit Toys is in order.
But a win is a win, and the 100 or so PCHS students jumping up and down in the stands weren't going to settle for anything less. Stalwart Miner fan Jaren Lockwood was back in his signature huge red foam cowboy hat, now missing a chunk from the brim torn out by the irate Timpanogos mother at the game two weeks ago. Laughing about it in the lobby after Wednesday's game, Lockwood said, "She was kind of agro, wasn't she."
Park City junior defenseman and assistant captain Robbie Derber gave the holiday crowd the present it wanted when his slap shot from the point beat the Warrior goalie at the 6:34 mark of the first period. He was set up by sophomore center Nixon Barber. Less than a minute later, junior winger TJ Mayo kept up his torrid scoring pace with his 12th goal of the season, fed by senior linemate Casey Sederman.
Now energized, Park City looked to be on its way to another lopsided win. But a defensive lapse at period's end resulted in a UCI goal with just one second left on the clock. Momentum gone. End of first: Park City 2, UCI 1.
The teams traded goals in the second period, although the Miners outshot UCI 13-5. Park City's goal came when junior center Harry Hanskat's shot conveniently rebounded to Mayo, who was parked in front of the Warrior net.
Sederman basically put an end to the Warrior dreams of victory when he scored just 40 seconds into the third period. His wrist shot, set up by Mayo, was poetic justice as he had hit the crossbar twice earlier in the game. The game ended with freshman Will Miele beating the UCI goalie on the blocker side. Barber set him up for his second assist of the game.
With three weeks until the team's next game, Dufford wants Park City to keep working in practice. "Preparation will be a key element of our success as we gear up for the playoffs," he said.
The next game for the Miners will be at home on Wednesday, Jan. 9, against the Viewmont Vikings, the third seed from the northern division. Make plans to ring in the New Year with the Miners! Until then, join the team on its Facebook page, Park City Miners High School Hockey.