Pioneers split with Stingers
After a rough weekend at Sun Valley Dec. 12-13, the Park City Pioneers were happy to return home this weekend to play host to the Bozeman Stingers at the Park City Ice Arena.
Though the Pioneers entered Friday night’s game with an 0-6 record, both of the games in the weekend series against the Stingers were tight.
On Friday night, Park City fell behind 2-0 before fighting its way back into the game, taking a 3-2 lead. Bozeman then tied the game with only seven seconds left in regulation, sending it to overtime. After a scoreless overtime period, Park City won the game in a shootout, 4-3, to pick up its first victory of the year.
"We played well all night," Park City Captain David Imonti said of Friday’s game. "We started out a little sloppy and got in a hole and had to dig ourselves out of it. Thankfully, we won it in a shootout. I knew we’d be OK if it went to a shootout, though — we’re pretty good at that."
Nick Liotta scored Park City’s first goal in the first period on a power play, with assists coming from Nicholas White and Zach Hale.
Morgan Feenie scored in the second period and was assisted by Tom Gatta and Jeremy Martinez. Newcomer Daniel Chang also scored in the second for the Pioneers, with assists coming from Erik Milliron and Brian Babbitt.
In the shootout, Park City goalie Kyle Gover stopped all three Bozeman shots he faced. Meanwhile, Milliron scored against Bozeman’s netminder, sealing the Park City victory.
On Saturday night, another dramatic game took place at the Park City Ice Arena. After the Pioneers and Stingers battled to a 1-1 tie through the first period, Park City took a 2-1 lead into the final period of play.
Bozeman quickly knotted it at 2, but Park City answered to take a 3-2 lead. Then, after Bozeman scored two-straight goals to go up 4-3, Park City found a way to answer and send the game to overtime tied 4-4.
However, in the extra period, the Stingers’ Alec Goplin scored to give Bozeman a 5-4 win, keeping them ahead of Park City in the Black Diamond Hockey League standings.
Scotty John, Brett Fryslie, Brad Townsend and Liotta scored for Park City on Saturday, with Gatta, Imonti, Mike Adamek (2), Fryslie, White and Martinez all picking up assists in the game.
Saturday’s overtime period featured a fight between Levi Blom and Babbitt, the culmination of what had been a very physical series.
"The other guy instigated it and Brian finished it," Imonti said. "It’s not his typical way of getting on the score sheet, but he’s on it nonetheless."
The two-game series saw a total of 130 penalty minutes. Though that’s a ton of time spent in the penalty box, Imonti said there’s no ill will between the two squads.
"It was a pretty physical series," he said. "But, all in all, it wasn’t dirty. While the games in this league are more physical, they’re not out of line by any means. It’s just good, hard hockey."
Imonti noted that the addition of high-level players like Chang and Townsend has helped the Pioneers be consistently competitive this season.
"Daniel Chang started the year in Wichita [in the ECHL]," he said. "He’s out here trying to get back to that level."
Townsend, who Imonti said he used to fight with quite a bit earlier in their careers, brings a tough mentality to Park City.
"He’s a gritty forward that brings some experience from a couple pro leagues," he said. "Guys like that help us bear down a bit when games are close."
Nearing the end of Park City’s first season in the Black Diamond Hockey League, after spending the past couple seasons in the Mountain West Hockey League, Imonti said the Pioneers are thrilled with the move. A shorter schedule and better opponents make for a better atmosphere, he said.
"I’ve said it quite a few times, but I think our fans would prefer that we lose close games like that or win close games like that rather than win by a couple touchdowns," he said. "I wish we had a couple more wins to show for it, but it doesn’t help us to go out and dominate teams.
"I was pretty happy with the turnout this weekend. We were at half capacity, maybe a little more on Saturday."
Park City, now 1-6-1 overall, will host first-place Sun Valley on Jan. 9 and 10 at the Ice Arena. Imonti said that two-game series will be a big one.
"Sun Valley has added two players who have played in the NHL recently," he said. "They’re in first place right now and they just swept Jackson Hole in Jackson Hole. I think that’s the first time I can remember that happening. It should be a tough series, probably our biggest one yet."
After losing 10-5 and 7-3 at Sun Valley Dec. 12-13, Imonti hopes the home-ice advantage helps the Pioneers this time around.
"We went up there last weekend a little short-handed," he said. "We played them as close as we could, but, hopefully with a full team on a bigger ice surface in Park City, we can play them close and pull off the upset."
Park City’s game against Sun Valley on Friday, Jan. 9, will start at 8:15 p.m. Saturday’s game will begin at 7:30 p.m.
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