The Murray Spartans, a perennial powerhouse from Utah high school hockey's Northern Division, marched into the Park City Ice Arena Wednesday night with conquest on their minds. After all, Murray had been one of the top teams in the state last season, and is expected to be strong again this year.
But on this night King Leonidas, or even Gerard Butler and his 299 pals, wouldn't have saved the Spartans, as Park City rolled to a 7-1 win.
"We had great energy tonight as a team," said Miner junior center Nixon Barber. "We made it tough for them to get out of their zone."
The rink was tilted into the Murray defensive zone all night. That domination showed in the shot totals. Like last week, where Park City outshot Skyline 43-16, the Miners plastered the Murray netminder Robert Brennan with Vulcanized rubber, ending with a 36-10 shot differential.
Still, despite owning the zone and hounding the Spartan puck carriers like Persian conscripts, Park City had trouble putting the puck in the Murray net. The first period's lone goal came when senior defenseman David Jenkins threw a pass that sent junior Will Radovan in on a breakaway. Radovan beat Brennan cleanly glove-side.
Park City Head Coach Aaron Dufford commented on the Miners' inability, at least thus far in the new season, to put the puck in the net early. "Right now, we're playing like a third period team," he said. "That's not a bad thing, but I'd rather put teams away early and eliminate their hopes."
Hopes were indeed alive in the Spartan camp when Mitchell Kemp gathered a loose puck, got past the Miner defense, and beat PCHS goalie Brent O'Connell just over four minutes into the second period. Score 1-1 at the 8:38 mark.
Four minutes later it was as if all of that forechecking energy boiled over. Led by the frenetic line of Barber, Radovan, and senior wing Noah Pranschke, Park City scored three goals in the span of 37 seconds! At 4:43, it was Pranschke's wrist shot, set up by Radovan. Then, at 4:32 it was sophomore center Will Miele, set up by senior winger Carson Walker. Pranschke added another at 4:06,assisted by Barber. Score 4-1 Park City after two.
In the third, the Miners attacked the Spartan flank, allowing only one shot in the period. Meanwhile, the Miners added three more goals in the first four minutes of the third. Two came from the line of junior Derek Sederman, and seniors TJ Mayo and Zach Slusher (one for Sederman, one for Mayo). Then Barber ended the scoring at 8:38 from Radovan, basically ending up in the net along with the puck. Final, Park City 7, Murray 1.
Park City did a good job with team defense on Murray's leading scorer, Trevin Morgan. Dufford explained, "I don't like to give any one player too much credit. With Trevin, we were aware as a team that he had skill and chose to eliminate time, space, and options. Good players will make an impact in the game either way. It's just important that you address the wound and don't let it bleed out of control."
The Murray game was the second "exhibition" game against the Northern Division. Park City has two remaining exhibitions before beginning regular season Southern Division play in November. Next up are the Brighton Bengals, Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 9:15 p.m. at the Cottonwood Heights Rec Center.