There are playoffs — best of five, best of seven. And there are playoffs — one and done.
The latter was the scary proposition Wednesday night at the Park City Ice Arena as the PCHS Miner hockey team faced the Davis Darts in the first round of the Utah high school hockey playoffs. The Miners had built a stellar 12-1-1 record over the season and looked to keep things rolling. But this first playoff round was single elimination: lose and go home.
Cue the big upsets: Colts/Jets. Tyson/Douglas. '69 Mets/Orioles. NC State/Phi SlammaJamma. SpongeBob/Plankton. Even Utah high school hockey: Last season, the eventual champion, Judge Memorial, came within a shootout miss of exiting stage left in the first round to Riverton.
Puhleeeeeeeeeeeeeze! This Park City team isn't going to be upset! The Miners held serve in Wednesday's opener, 5-0, and now move on into the double-elimination, eight-team playoff finals.
As has been their norm, the Miners started off slowly, keeping the puck in the Dart zone but getting little out of it. Finally, Davis committed two penalties at 4:35 and 3:01 (penalties in the playoffs are all two minutes), giving Park City a two-man advantage. This Miner team excels at cycling the puck and the line of Nixon Barber, Noah Pranschke and Will Radovan controlled play. Then Pranschke threw the puck out to an uncovered Zac Polukoff at the point. Polukoff's ripping slapshot beat Dart goalie Alec King at 2:32 to break the scoreless tie.
A minute later, Park City defenseman Bryant Lo Re passed the puck up to center Harry Hanskat. Hanskat carried the puck through center ice and then pushed left just outside the Davis blue line, drawing Dart defenseman Jerry Mayne with him. Then he pulled the puck back to the right through Mayne's skates and emerged free, breaking in on the Davis goal. A diving attempt at a poke check by King was to no avail as Hanskat deked left and scored. The period ended 2-0 Park City.
In the second period, the Miners took over, dominating like E.B. White at Scrabble. The period must have felt like a 15-minute penalty kill for the Davis defensemen. Park City outshot the Darts 20-3 and scored twice (along with an uncounted goal by Pranschke that rebounded off the back crossbar and was missed by the referees) in the period.
At 9:35 in the period, defenseman Dakota Janes set up right wing Casey Sederman in the high slot. Sederman deftly wove between two defenders and beat King with a wrist shot. Then, at 5:23, Pranschke's wrist shot off of a pass from Barber made it 4-0 Park City. After two periods, Park City had outshot Davis 32-6.
The final tally came from freshman wing Will Miele at 3:07 in the third period on a tasty backhand set up by defenseman David Jenkins. TJ Mayo should also have had a third-period goal but, like Pranschke's earlier effort, the refs missed it when the puck caromed off the back crossbar.
In the end, five goals were scored by five different scorers. The number-one line of Hanskat, Sederman, and Mayo has been carrying the scoring load the second half of the season for the Miners, but an expanded cast of goal scorers bodes well for Park City's championship aspirations. It's much harder to contain a team when its scoring can realistically come from three different lines.
Next up for the Miners is the final home game of the season, a second-round playoff showdown with the Viewmont Vikings, Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. Viewmont was tied for the second seed in the northern division with an 8-2-1 regular season record. Grab some friends and be there; admission to playoff games is $2.