For the Park Record
An air of expectation filled the Park City Ice Arena Wednesday night as the Park City High School hockey team warmed up for its playoff game against the Viewmont Vikings. It was the final home game of a spectacular season for the Miners. There was a rumor that Miner head coach Aaron Dufford had been named Coach of the Year. And the Vikings were supposedly talking in their locker room about how beatable Park City was.
Shortly thereafter, it was announced over the P.A. that Dufford had indeed received the honor (see separate story), and that the largest crowd of the season had turned out for the last home game. But beatable? Erik the Red turned out to be more like Hagar the Horrible as Park City vanquished the Vikings 6-3 and moved on as one of the four remaining undefeated teams in the state hockey playoffs.
"There are a few different viewpoints when it comes to war or team sports: 'A great defense wins battles/defense wins games' or 'a great offense is the best defense,'" the Coach of the Year commented afterwards. "I think having a complementary mix of both is the best recipe. Offensively, we put Viewmont in a hole by gaining a four-goal lead. Defensively, we thwarted their early opposing opportunities."
Not that a couple Viewmont players weren't doing their best Erik the Red impersonations. The game was filled with late hits and action away from the puck on the part of the larger Vikings, who seemed intent on trying to intimidate the Park City players. For some reason, the referees turned a blind eye to most of it, not giving Viewmont a single penalty until halfway through the second period.
The vocal Miner side of the crowd disagreed. Probably the best comment from the bleachers came from Sybil Bogardus, the mother of Miner forward Noah Pranschke, who called out to the refs, "I've seen better eyes on a potato."
Viewmont opened the game with a quick flurry of activity and had a couple nice chances on Park City goalie Brent O'Connell. But O'Connell stoned them in a way that would have made a Victorian zealot proud.
Then it was the Miners' turn. Casey Sederman joined a rush as part of a line change while Will Radovan was still on the ice. The two raced forward, and Radovan expertly threw a backhand pass over a Viking stick to Sederman, who buried it for a 1-0 lead just 3:33 into the period.
Radovan had a great game, collecting primary assists on three of the six Park City goals. He set up Pranschke at the 7:01 mark for one of the left wing's patented rocket wrist shots, making it 2-0 midway through the period. From there, the Vikings occasionally made pushes into the Miner zone, but the collapsing defense of Bryant Lo Re, Dakota Janes, Sam Groves, Zac Polukoff, Robbie Derber, and David Jenkins kept them scoreless.
Derber assisted on the lone goal of the second period. He ripped a slap shot from the Viking blue line that Miner center Harry Hanskat redirected in front of the net past Viewmont goalie Trey Johnson. That goal made it 3-0 Miners at 10:22 in the second. The period ended that way, as Viewmont seemed intent on violence and Park City seemed content to avoid the mayhem and protect the 3-0 lead.
Viewmont tried to create some tension in the house with a goal at 11:26 of the third, but just six seconds later center Nixon Barber took a pass from Radovan and beat Johnson five hole. Two minutes later, at 8:17, Hanskat tallied his second of the game on a wrist shot over Johnson's glove, set up by linemate TJ Mayo. That made it 5-1 Park City; there would be no Viking conquest this day.
Late in the period, a couple of odd bounces led to Viking goals, making it 5-3 with 1:43 left. But then, on a penalty kill with less than a minute remaining, defenseman Groves expertly cleared the puck out of the Miner zone down the ice and into an empty Viewmont net. Final score: Park City 6, Viewmont 3.
Dufford wasn't thrilled with those two late goals. "Moving forward, bearing down on our sticks in front of the net late in a game will be a key component of our success," he said. "We had a few-goal cushion late that made Viewmont's two late goals less disturbing."
Park City now moves on to a rematch with the top seed of the Northern Division, the Judge Bulldogs, Wednesday, February 20, at 7:15 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex, 645 South Guardsman Way (1580 East). The Miners tied Judge 5-5 a couple of weeks back in an exhibition game, but Park City was missing five varsity starters for that game. The winner of the Park City/Judge game will face off Friday night against the Murray/Uintah winner from the other side of the bracket. Make plans to head to Salt Lake and support this Miner championship run.
As a side note, a Viewmont player's father suffered a heart attack this past weekend and was in a coma in the hospital. Jennifer and Geoff Barber arranged for donations prior to the game and the Park City crowd generated $600 to help with medical expenses.