Pioneers drop two to Sun Valley |

Pioneers drop two to Sun Valley

By the time the first period ended on Friday night at the Park City Ice Arena, the Park City Pioneers found themselves trailing 2-0 on two power-play goals by the Sun Valley Suns.

Midway through the second period, it was 5-0 and the Pioneers looked listless on the ice in what eventually became an 8-2 loss.

Park City Captain David Imonti said he wasn’t happy with the way the Pioneers started the game on Friday night.

"Friday, we came out a little flat," he said. "Some of the guys didn’t have the same work ethic we were hoping for, kind of coasting through plays and whatnot."

Erik Milliron finally found the back of the net for Park City late in the second, off assists by Daniel Chang and Imonti. Robby Knott also scored in the second, off assists from Brian Babbitt and Chris Jung.

In the third period, two of the Suns’ three goals were scored via power plays. Park City spent a total of 34 minutes in the penalty box. Imonti said some of the early penalties were to try to spark the team into a more physical style of play.

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"It was that, and toward the middle and end of it, there was a little frustration showing," he said. "Guys weren’t thrilled that we weren’t winning and giving a team effort. That’s what we need to do against a team like that."

He added that it was a shame the Pioneers couldn’t get more shots on the Sun Valley net, especially with the way Park City goalie Kyle Gover was playing.

"It could have been much worse," he said. "Gover did the best he could, but we didn’t give him much help. It was probably the worst game we played all year as a team. [The Suns] are good at capitalizing on mistakes and we made a lot of them."

Saturday night’s game, though, was a completely different story. Though the Pioneers still lost, the 4-2 final score was something Park City could be proud of.

The Pioneers were leading 2-0 after one period of play, thanks to goals by Jeremy Martinez and Brad Townsend, two assists from Brian Babbitt and one each from Daniel Chang and Mike Adamek.

"We came out early and got two goals," Imonti said. "They weren’t pretty goals, though. One hit someone’s leg and went in and the other was a rebound."

The Suns, however, fought back to cut the lead to 2-1 by the end of the first period. They tied the game at two after the second period and scored two goals in the third to come away with a victory.

Imonti said the Pioneers need to find ways to finish off more scoring chances if they want to be successful down the stretch this season.

"We just have trouble scoring goals," he said. "Our defense is getting better, but we’re not generating enough chances to dominate teams now. These teams are better and a little tighter defensively. We don’t get as many opportunities to score and we need to capitalize on them."

Imonti said Saturday was another strong showing from a Park City goalie, this time newcomer Andrew Via.

"He’s a local Park City kid," Imonti said. "He came up huge. He was outstanding with 40 saves. This kid came out of nowhere. I heard he wasn’t bad, but no one told me he was that good."

The Pioneers fell to 1-8-1 overall, while the Suns improved to 10-0. Park City’s final games of the Black Diamond Hockey League season will take place at Bozeman Feb. 27-28. Imonti said those games will be incredibly important for playoff seeding. If the Pioneers can snag a couple victories in Bozeman, they’ll leapfrog the Stingers into the third spot in the league. That would prevent a first-round matchup against Sun Valley and instead have Park City matching up against second-place Jackson Hole.

"Any of the other teams [besides Sun Valley], it just depends on whose night it is," Imonti said. "We stand a pretty good chance. If we pick up those two wins in Bozeman, we can overtake them in the standings. If not to win a championship, it’s huge for morale to show all the hard work has paid off a little bit."

First, before either game in Bozeman, Park City has a weekend series against the Vail Yeti, a former Mountain West Hockey League rival.

"That’ll be a good test," Imonti said. "They’re the best team in that league, hands down. It’ll be a good challenge for both teams."

The Pioneers take on the Vail Yeti Feb. 6-7 at the Park City Ice Arena. Friday’s game starts at 8:15 p.m. and the puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night.