New ice nice for Miners hockey season
The face of high school hockey in Park City officially changed this season. Although the Miners bid farewell to 11 seniors last year, the addition of the Park City Ice should secure Park City hockey dominance permanently.
If that seems like a bold statement, consider the changes the new rink brings to the program.
The team has been on the ice since the rink reopened during the first week of August. The boys went from once-a week, one-hour, late-night practices in Salt Lake to practicing three days a week at a rink a mile or so away from most of the players’ homes. They now have a home rink rather than traveling in a bus from Provo to Ogden every week. The Miners will also enjoy home advantage for every game on their schedule, except a road trip to play Uintah this season. All home games are scheduled at the Park City Arena on Wednesday nights at 6:30 or 8 p.m.
Home ice couldn’t have come at a better time for the Miners. Park City is playing on a team made up of two seniors and mostly freshmen and sophomores, yet they are still playing in Utah prep hockey’s hardest division, facing off against the likes of powerhouses such as Hunter, Brighton and East.
"We’re in the big division. We play the big-time teams. It’s going to be a hard season," head coach Barry Graves said.
Last week, the varsity squad started the season against Taylorville, falling 9-1. Graves said that hard loss was due in large part to inexperience.
"We’ve got a lot of talent,’ Greaves said. "We’re just coming together. We’ll be OK."
Their first start wasn’t helped by the fact that they were playing with some injuries and were minus three defensemen.
The Miners had the week off following the game to heal, regroup and prepare to host Skyline on Oct. 11. Greg DuBois will return from a knee injury to play for the defense and Graves is expecting big things from some of his new players, including a handful of players from the Park City Winter School.
"We’ve got the ability, " Graves said.
Graves is also excited about the prospect of improving on that core ability and talent. With three practices a week this year, Graves can spend time helping the team improve their skating and work on basic hockey fundamentals. That’s a strong contrast from previous years where the weekly practice had to be completely devoted to working on game situations.
Graves says that he expects to see the effects of the intense skill training about mid-season when it will be crucial for the Miners to capture a few key wins from their talented opponents.
Home games should also help the Miners to build a fan base. In the Taylorville game and a practice game against Wasatch last month, the visiting team fans far outnumbered the Park City contingent. Graves hopes that as locals realize Wednesdays are hockey night in Park City, support will grow for his team.
"The more publicity we get, it will help us," Graves said. "It’s a great group of kids this year. They’ll give the big names a run for their money this year."
The ice rink will also help hockey development in the area. Before, the team would draw on players that had been driving to Salt Lake all of their lives to learn the game. Now, development programs are in place for all ages, starting with the very young, which will eventually bolster the high school program.
"We may not be a powerhouse this year, but we will be soon." Graves said.
The junior varsity is already 2-0 on the season, which Graves says is a sign of things to come in the Park City hockey scene.
Graves expects this year’s varsity team to improve as soon as the Skyline game. With their skates firmly under them now, he says they know what to expect and should come out more prepared on Wednesday.
"They have experience now," Graves said. "The next game it will be a different outcome."
The varsity team will host Skyline on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at the Park City Ice Arena. The puck will drop at 6:30 p.m.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.