Miners hope to return to playoffs
Back when all of us were still soaking up the rays of the late summer sun, the Park City High School hockey club was already on the rink.
With a schedule that stretches from late August into February, it is already almost midseason for the 4-4 Miners. Gone are a strong group of seniors who lead the team deep into the playoffs last year, but in their place are another large senior class and a new head coach in Bruce Foster.
"There were quite a few seniors and all were impact players," Foster said. "We knew going into this year it was going to be a challenge."
Foster, a hockey-playing Minnesota transplant, had only coached in the youth development league previously, but decided he was ready for the challenge this year.
This year’s squad comes with some new challenges for Foster. Many of the players don’t have experience playing with each other or executing certain plays, so much of the team’s practice time early in the season has been spent on what Foster calls "seasoning" just helping the team to play well together.
"We’ve got a lot of things to work on to become as good as we were," Foster said. "We’re working with a different group."
This year, Park City has eight seniors, six juniors and three sophomores. Returning at goalie is Will Parry, who was important in Park City’s postseason run last season. And this year, two girls on the roster, it is no longer a boys club. Sophomore Laura Kubicki starts on the varsity’s second line.
"She’s a heck of a player," Foster said.
Kubicki is joined by Allie Call, who plays on the junior varsity squad.
Even with much of last year’s team gone, the Miners have fared pretty well thus far on the season. They won three out of their first four games, losing only to No. 1-ranked Skyview. As of late, the team has been on a three-game losing skid, but has played well against some of the better teams in the league.
"We knew it was going to be hard going into this part of the schedule," Foster said.
In the last three weeks, the team lost to Murray 4-2, to Northridge, 4-3, and were shut out by Fremont, 6-0. All three of these squads will most likely appear in the postseason, so Foster knew that no matter how hard the games were, the experience would help prepare the team for later games.
"To get to the tournament, you have got to get used to teams like that," Foster said. "I figure you learn even more in defeat than in victory."
The Murray game began at 9:15 p.m. on a Wednesday in Murray, and the team came out tired in the first period before coming together to finish the game.
"We could have won that game." Foster said. "The guys just came out flat."
Park City was in the game against Northridge up until the final buzzer, but was unable to make a final scoring push.
"We deserved to win that game," Foster said. "We outplayed them. We outsmarted them. We won in every category but the most important one."
And although Fremont kept Park City scoreless, the game was 1-0 until midway through the second period.
"Our guys really tried hard," Foster said. "Fremont is a top team. Those guys were good big and fast."
Foster had been forced to play with only two lines up until this week, which added to the challenges. Luckily Grey Robbins, who had a wrist injury over the summer, returned to the team Monday, which means that the team now has three complete lines.
"With three lines, we are playing pretty well and balanced," Foster said.
The Miners will play one of the most anticipated games of their season on Nov. 19 when they host East High School. The Leopards were already one of Park City’s biggest rivals when they ended the Miners’ playoff run last year, so tensions should be high.
"East is a big rivalry," Foster said.
Leading up to the East game, Foster has some key things he wants to work on, including breaking out of the defensive zone, breaking into the offensive zone and working on power plays and penalty kills. However, he admits that every practice is always devoted to improving basic skills as well.
Foster knows it will take the team some more time to really get rolling, but he’s fortunate that hockey has a long season. He calls the team a work in progress, and expects that by midseason the team should be well on its way to at least taking at stab at winning a playoff game or two.
"Our goal is to get a little better each game," he said. "We need to make continual improvement."
The Miners will host East on Nov. 19 at 8:15 p.m. at the Park City Ice Arena.
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Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts in early June submitted a letter to the Park City Planning Commission in support of a Provo developer’s blueprints for a major project at the resort.