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Sun Valley Suns-Back-to-Back Champs
Sun Valley Sun player Marty Flichel shows off the trophy alongside his wife and daughters.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019


The Sun Valley Suns Hockey Club ventured into hostile territory Saturday night and emerged victorious, hoisting the Joe Casey Cup after defeating the Jackson Moose 5-4 in Jackson, Wyo.,  to capture their second straight Black Diamond Hockey League Championship.

The Snow King Center in Jackson was packed to the rafters with excited fans lined up four deep in the standing room sections and the balcony and grandstands overflowing. Amid the throng of Moose fans was two small but vocal pockets of Suns’ fans who made the trek across eastern Idaho to root on a team that was attempting to become the first ever Suns squad to defend their semi-pro BDHL championship.

It was also the first time in the five years of the BDHL tournament that a team has won two consecutive titles.

As is always the case when these two rivals get together, the intensity in the arena and on the ice was palpable.

There was only one called penalty but a lot of bloody noses behind the scenes.

It didn’t hurt that the Suns were the No. 1 seed and the Moose No. 2.

And the intensity ramped up immediately after the face-off, as the Moose scored one minute and thirty seconds into the contest to take an early 1-0 lead. The Suns responded by beginning to control the action in the Jackson end and capitalized at the 12:43 mark when Rusty Andersson willed the puck past the Moose goaltender to tie the game at 1-1. Assists on the tying score came from Dylan Shamburger and Justin Taylor.

Much to the delight of the hockey fans and the combatants, the referees were letting the players play in the first period, setting the tone for clean hard-hitting hockey by both teams. The Suns struck again after 10 scoreless minutes when Max Tardy found the net with help from Nick Curry and Spencer Brendel to give the visitors their first lead of the contest.

Just over a minute later, Shamburger scored off a rebound to put Sun Valley ahead 3-1 with two minutes remaining in the opening period.  Andersson and Taylor picked up the assists on the goal that seemingly put the Suns in control as they were about to head into the first intermission.

The families of Darrell Hay and Marty Flichel were among a small contingent of Suns’ supporters that joined 2,000 people at the Moose house.

But after that the puck took some funky bounces to turn the momentum completely around. With 38.9 seconds left in the first, the puck bounced out of the scrum and past Matt Cooper to get the Moose back in the game 3-2 and fire up their estimated 2000 fans who had been muzzled by the Suns three unanswered goals.

Cooper fell victim to a tricky bouncing puck once again just 14 seconds into the second stanza as the Moose scored in less than pretty fashion to tie the game at three goals apiece. But the Suns proved resilient, bouncing right back to regain the lead with a score of their own when Marty Flichel fired the puck through the five-hole with helpers coming from Nick Curry and Eric Demment.

The Suns protected their 4-3 lead for seven minutes until Jackson scored and deadlocked the game at 4-4. Following the Moose goal, Suns’ coach Cub Burke called Bobby Bowden off the bench to replace Matt Cooper in goal. Burke said after the game it was a very difficult decision, but one that he needed to make given the circumstances.

Because the Suns had a bye into the finals, they did not utilize their usual two goalie rotation, with Bowden on Friday nights and Cooper on Saturday nights. Burke said he managed to make both of his talented tenders angry by choosing Cooper to start and then by bringing Bowden off the bench. Cub emphasized that Cooper was playing well but had been frustrated by goals that were, in Cub’s estimation, “not Coop’s fault”. The moved worked out well as Bowden looked sharp despite sitting on the bench for the first period and a half, and he shut out the Moose for the remainder of the second period.

The Suns pulled off the first back-to-back championship game in the history of the tournament.

The third period was devoid of any early scoring as both teams’ defenses took over the game. They exchanged hard hit after hard hit, and the defenders broke up several scoring opportunities and offensive rushes. But nine minutes into the final period, DJ Robinson stuffed the puck into the back of the net to break the tie and give the lead back to the Suns.

The Suns defense and Bowden made sure that they would not relinquish that lead this time, completely stifling the Moose for the final 11 minutes to preserve the 5-4 victory.

Demment said after the game that “everyone did their job, everyone played hard and no one got sucked into any shenanigans after the whistle”. The 16-year Suns veteran stated that “it means a lot to come in here and win, we have never won back-to-back and we have never won a (BDHL) championship game on the road.”

Last year the Suns beat Jackson Hole in the BDHL final at the Campion Ice House in Hailey.

Darrell Hay savors victory, his family at his side.

Burke said he was “so proud of this group of guys who were firing on all cylinders, keeping up that Suns tradition of having fun, but wanting it so bad.” That Suns tradition helped them bring home their third BDHL Championship in the last four years.

They finished the year with 16 wins and seven losses.

The Moose, who last won the BDHL championship in 2016-17, finished this season with a record of 22-8.


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