Pioneers earn another sweep
Due to injuries and work-related conflicts, the Park City Pioneers had to sign four new players for last weekend’s series against the Aspen Leafs in Aspen, Colo.
The new players fit right in, helping the Pioneers snag a 6-5 overtime win on Friday night and a 7-5 win on Saturday night.
"This trip is always hard to make," Pioneer forward David Imonti said. "It’s one of the longer trips."
Because of all the absences, the Pioneers needed some extra help just to be able to field a team for the weekend.
"We brought in some guys from down in Salt Lake," Imonti said. "We didn’t know how they were going to do."
Newcomer Oliver Freij was solid between the pipes, earning two victories in his first two games as Park City’s goalie.
"Our regular two goalies are probably the best in the league," Imonti said of Eric Moldenhauer and Kyle Gover. "But Oliver came in and held down the fort. All he needed to do was give us a chance to win, and he did."
On Friday night, the Pioneers fell behind 3-1 after the first period. In the second period, star forward Brian Babbitt was mugged by an Aspen player, making it seem like a loss was inevitable.
But on the resulting Pioneer power play, Park City scored a goal, launching the team toward a comeback. When Tommy Rupp sneaked the puck past the Aspen goalie in the overtime period, the Pioneers took the win and improved their season record to 8-8, climbing to a .500 percentage for the first time after starting the season 1-7.
On Saturday night, Babbitt played with a chip on his shoulder, scoring five goals against the Leafs to lead his team to the win.
"Not a bad comeback there," Imonti said. "He’s a good player. He’s struggled at times this year, but when he’s on, he’s on."
Saturday’s win put the Pioneers above .500 with an overall record of 9-8. Imonti said that’s very important in terms of playoff seeding.
"We’ve kind of been on a tear in the second half of the season," he said. "We don’t want to lose any points if we can get them."
He added that the improved record has given the team a lift after the rough start to the year.
"It’s a weight off our chests," he said. "We can look back at the end of the year and know we were at least fairly successful."
P.J. Nelson ended the weekend with three assists, Sean Baron had a goal and an assist, and Rupp finished with two goals (including Friday’s game-winner) and an assist.
The Pioneers will be back in action on March 15 and 16 against the Jackson Hole Moose at the Park City Ice Arena.
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.