"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times "
Actually, Monday night's return to the ice for the Park City High School hockey team was mainly just best of times stuff. But after a seven-month break you need a great opening line, so you take what you can get.
Could've been "Call me Ishmael."
Yes, five months after the team's ignominious exit from the state high school hockey playoffs with two one-goal losses in two nights (following a spectacular 14-1-1 run up to that point), Park City faced off against the Skyline Eagles in the season opener for both teams Monday night at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. The Miners ended up 5-1 victors in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
Expectations are high for this year's Park City squad. Led by a huge senior class that, in its three years, has led the team from the bottom to the elite of the state's hockey programs, and guided by a coach who was the 2012/13 Utah High School Hockey Coach of the Year, the eyes are all on the prize for the Miners.
So, it was apropos for the Miners to open the season against Skyline, a power from the Northern Division (Park City is in the Southern Division) only two seasons removed from back-to-back state titles. The game was billed as an exhibition since it won't count towards each team's division standing, but it was a good test for the season debut.
From the opening drop, though, it was clear which team was stronger. Park City outskated and outshot the Eagles, holding the puck in the offensive zone virtually the entire first period. Shots on net were 12-2 Park City, a trend that continued throughout. On the night, the Miners shot enough to keep Wayne LaPierre happy, ending with 43 shots to Skyline's 16 and missing the net on probably another 30 shots (for a shot to count as a "shot on goal" it must have been able to end up in the net).
But the game remained scoreless through the first period, as Eagle goalie Robert Canfield did his best Eddie Giacomin imitation.
In the second, the Eagles took the lead on a fluky goal just 18 seconds into the period. Then a parade of Miner penalties kept Park City on the kill, unable to regain the high-speed flow of the first period.
Finally, almost 10 minutes into the period, left-wing senior Derrick Sederman broke in unassisted across the Eagle blue line and ripped a quick snapshot adjacent to the faceoff dot that cleanly beat Canfield glove side. Score 1-1 through two.
Sederman is back with the team after spending last year with Alta. The irony is that Derrick was paired on the #1 line with seniors Harry Hanskat and TJ Mayo Monday night. That pair was teamed with Derrick's older brother, Casey, on last season's #1 line.
In the third, Park City limited its penalties and ripped 23 shots on Canfield. Still, he stood on his head through the first nine minutes of the period. Then sophomore wing Will Miele broke the ice with a wicked wrist shot from close quarters into the top of the Skyline net for the second goal at 4:48. Two minutes later, Hanskat won a puck battle along the boards and threw the puck to Mayo whose snapshot tallied the third Miner goal. A mere 10 seconds later, senior wing Zach Slusher gathered a rebound off a shot by center Nixon Barber below the Eagle goal line. Remaining below the goal line, Slusher expertly banked his shot off of Canfield's skate back into the Skyline net at the 2:33 mark. Senior wing Noah Pranschke added a final, unassisted goal with 26 seconds left. Final: Park City 5, Skyline 1.
Miner Coach Aaron Dufford was pleased with the team's first game, but found flaws. "The core of this team has been together for three years now and we know what to expect out of each other," he explained. "But it's apparent we need to work on special teams, primarily the power play."
And he thought the large number of shots that missed the net weren't necessary. "Patience and puck possession are two of the major components of this game," he said. "We don't want to rush opportunities. We need to recognize breakdowns and pounce on opportunities."
Park City returns home Wednesday, Oct. 2, to face the Northern Division pre-season favorite Murray Spartans in each team's second exhibition game. Game time is 6:30 p.m. at the Park City Ice Arena, so make plans to be there. And to keep up with the team's every move, "like" its Facebook page, Park City Miners High School Hockey.