PCHS hockey falls short in state championship
Miners win three straight to force winner-take-all game
Taking a loss in the first game of a double-elimination tournament is never an ideal scenario, but it’s exactly the one the Park City High School hockey team found itself in after falling to the Murray Spartans on Feb. 1 in a close contest 2-1.
There was no room for error the rest of the way.
“After taking the loss in the first game to Murray, it was pretty scary knowing that if we lost one more game, we were out,” PCHS team captain Daniel Hebert said. “But I believed in the team because we were all a strong-bonded family.”
Hebert and company’s belief that they could win out became a reality in the team’s next three games. They handily defeated Skyline 9-0 and edged out rival Viewmont 2-1. The team even defeated Murray, the team that originally beat them, 4-0 to force a winner-take-all championship game with the Spartans.
“When we battled hard and won the next three games, I knew everyone in the locker room would do everything it took to win [the state championship],” Hebert said.
Unfortunately for the Miners, their winning streak came to a close in the final game of the season, falling to Murray 6-4 in the Utah High School Hockey Championship game at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex on Wednesday evening.
It was a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle between the teams and Park City left everything on the ice. In fact, the Miners held the lead and were viewed as the aggressors for much of the game, especially in the first period. Alec Smith found the back of the cage to put Park City up 1-0, the score when the first-period buzzer sounded.
In the second period, however, the Miners were slammed with penalties. After Smith scored his second goal of the game, Park City led 2-1 when the whistles starting blaring. At one point, the Miners were playing 3-on-5 with two players in the penalty box and the Spartans made them pay.
“The penalties really killed us,” Hebert said. “Apart from that, the pucks just didn’t bounce our way and the calls weren’t in our favor for the most part.”
But the puck did bounce in Murray’s favor, as the Spartans scored two power play goals within seconds of each other to take a 3-2 lead and shifting the momentum in their favor as the second period ended.
From the fans in the stands to the players on the ice, pandemonium ensued in the third and final period of the game. Murray kicked things off with a goal to push its lead to 4-2, but the Miners would not go down without a fight.
Jackson Ehlers found himself in front of the net and with an opportunity to score, put the puck in the back of the cage to cut the deficit to 4-3.
“It was really great to score right there, especially in front of all of Murray’s fans,” Ehlers said.
Nearly two minutes later, Marc Colaizzi tied the game up with just 7:09 to go and the large PCHS student section, who traveled to Salt Lake City, went wild.
“The atmosphere was very energetic,” Hebert said. “I personally have never played in front of that many people. It made the game that much more exciting to play.”
Eight seconds later, the Spartans scored a dagger to go up 5-4. There was still plenty of time left on the clock, but Park City, despite its furious shot attempts on the Murray goal, could not make up the difference. The Spartans scored an insurance goal in the final minute after the Miners pulled their goalie to bring out an extra man.
There were five goals scored in that third period, the same amount scored in the previous two combined.
The run through the playoffs was an impressive one for Park City, despite the loss. The Miners finished the regular season strong and came into the postseason flying, but they needed just a few more goals to secure the coveted state title.
Even so, Hebert will always cherish being a member of this squad.
“When I look back at high school hockey, this is going to be the team I remember,” he said. “We were just one solid family. Being a senior and this being my last year of high school hockey, I couldn’t have been happier with the group of men I played with. It was one hell of a run and I couldn’t have been more proud in my team.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.