PCHS hockey season ends in loss
During the regular season, the Park City High School hockey team averaged nearly 12 goals per game. The Miners twice scored more than 15 goals, putting up 21 against Riverton and 18 against Hunter Independent.
But, as the playoffs wore on this year and the competition got tougher, the Miners’ offense stalled. After scoring 13 goals in an opening-round win against Olympus, Park City only scored six in a win against Skyline and seven in a victory against Sky View.
On Wednesday, Feb. 18, the Miners crossed paths with defending state champion Viewmont, scoring only one goal in a 5-1 loss. After dropping into the losers’ bracket, Park City squared off against rival Uintah last Friday night at the Maverick Center. Goals were again hard to come by for the Miners, who lost to the eventual state champs 3-1 to end their title hopes.
Against two of the top goalies in the state, the Park City offense couldn’t find the back of the net. Coach Aaron Dufford said the Miners seemed to be settling for shots that might beat a lesser netminder, but didn’t have much of a chance to get by the top keepers.
"I think that we struggled to score because we attacked the net from bad angles," he said. "We weren’t getting downward pressure on the net as far as attacking from the slot area. We out-shot [Viewmont and Uintah] in both games, but they weren’t going in."
Dufford said the weaker regular-season schedule the Miners faced didn’t do them any favors in the high-pressure playoff games against the state’s top teams.
"We’ve kind of struggled with the same thing the past couple years," he said. "We have a fairly weak regular-season schedule and we don’t get tested to score in tight situations. That doesn’t correlate with the playoffs, where you have to earn every goal. We need to figure out how to earn goals."
Park City goalie Ishan Chho didn’t have the save percentage he would have liked against Uintah, but Dufford said it was a strong performance nonetheless.
"There’s absolutely no blame on our goaltender at all," he said. "If we only score one goal as a team, we can’t blame anybody but our offense. If we’re scoring three, four or five goals, maybe we can look at the goaltender. But he definitely put us in a position to win."
Chho, who is only a freshman, gained some valuable experience in tight games that Dufford said that will be critical to his development over the next three years.
"This playoff experience is important for Ishan," he said. "He’s very good at stopping the first shot — what we need to work on is stopping second and third shots."
Though it might be tempting at times to keep the team’s top players on the ice for longer periods of time, Dufford said that strategy doesn’t always work due to the fast pace of hockey.
"You can’t play kids for more than a minute and a half before they lose all their energy," he said. "You have to have good flow with the bench. We rely heavily on our seniors, but if they’re not doing what they need to be doing, we have to have guys ready to go in their place.
"The cool thing about high-school hockey is this is a four-year endeavor for most of these kids. It’s important to win and lose as a team. The guys on varsity are on varsity for a reason. Giving them equal time helps them grow."
The end of the season may have been disappointing, but Dufford said there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about next year. Some changes to the schedule might be in the works, but there should be plenty of talent returning to the roster.
"I think we need to put ourselves, maybe outside of regular-season play, in more competitive atmospheres to focus on earning goals and earning wins," he said. "Beyond that, I think we’re going to have a solid team again next year. We have some guys on the JV team that would have been capable of playing on most varsity teams."
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