Miners skate to state championships
The postseason has been full of surprises for Park City High School hockey coach Barry Graves. Not only is his team, which struggled to win a single game just a few shorts months ago, suddenly on the verge of winning its first-ever state championship, but the Miners are doing it in a very convincing fashion.
"I think they are a lot more hungry than some of the teams we play," Graves said. "They know what it’s like to struggle and they know what it’s like to win games."
With two postseason wins already under their belts, the Miners shutout the South Valley Independent Ice Dogs 3-0 to win in the semifinal round of the Utah High School Hockey playoffs on Wednesday night.
The shutout was thanks to a total team effort. Although the Ice Dogs came into the game as a top seed, the Miners had no problem silencing them at the net.
"We’re just really playing well right now," Graves said.
Goalie Kevin Walsh logged his third consecutive winning game on top of an impressive 92 percent save record.
"That has helped us out tremendously," Graves said.
Graves also praised the play of his defensive unit in the game. The defense was bolstered by the return of Walker Dunavent, and the young line proved that skill is not always based on age and experience.
"Tonight we dominated defensively," Graves said. "We’ve really come into our own as far as the defensive situation."
Much of the success is due to the effort of the younger players. With key players down with injuries throughout the playoffs, Graves has had to rely on bench and junior varsity players. Last night, only two seniors played, yet the Miners dominated.
On the offensive side of the puck, Park City found out before the game that they would have to finish out the season without forward Colin Almquist, but welcomed back Greg DuBois in the meantime.
In Almquist’s absence, Wes Selby displayed versatility by moving up to the first line center position and scored a goal with 11 minutes left in the second period off an assist by Brandon BeeBe. Teammates Robert Repko and Beebe also contributed, each scoring a goal in the other two periods.
With just two days between the semifinals and the final game, the Miners will have no practice time on the ice to solidify their game plan. Graves figures that with Wednesday’s strong win the boys should be focused and ready for Saturday’s game. The other challenge is that Park City has no idea which team they will be preparing for. With the double-elimination style of the tournament, the Miners could play Cache Valley Independent Wild, that they beat in the quarterfinals, or the Davis County Independent team, which they have never played before. He does know that the Davis squad has two players from Kamas, who he hopes to bring onto the Miners team next year, but otherwise, could enter that match-up somewhat blindly. Graves says the team does not plan on making any line changes or play to one individual, but instead will focus on their own team play.
"No matter who we face in the final round, it will be a great game," Graves said.
Graves expects to have everyone except for Almquist and Kyle Fraleigh at the championship game Saturday.
The only other element Graves hopes to add for the final game is fans. With the luck of the draw putting their final two playoff games at Provo’s Peaks Ice Arena, the Miners have been skating in relatively enemy territory. Graves is hopeful with a weekend game, more of the Park City community can make the trip down to support the team in their first try at a state trophy.
"We have a lot of momentum and the kids are focused," Graves said. "They realize they are one win away from doing something Park City hockey has never done."
The Miners will play in the Utah High School Hockey Independent Division championship game this Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo. If the Miners lose, a second game will be added to determine the state champion.
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