top of page

Suns Sweep Series from Ice Raiders

By Phillip Goodman

March 4, 2024

The weekend was anything but sunny for the Reno Ice Raiders as the Sun Valley Suns defeated Reno 8-2 on Friday and 7-5 on Saturday amidst one of the worst blizzards of the year. Both games sold out in the first hour of tickets being released and the brave rabid fans still packed Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena to about 85 percent capacity on both nights.

Out of the gate on Friday, the Suns came at Reno quickly in the first 90 seconds getting a 2-on-1 break behind the Ice Raiders' defense. It looked like Joey Sides had a wide open one-time goal but Justis Gyori reached back across and robbed Sides of a goal with the glove for what might be the Lone Wolf's Chop Rodz Save of the Season.

On the shift following Gyori's heroics, Morgan Ellis, Bobby Watson, and Hunter Sine worked a 3-on-2 rush to perfection and Watson found Sine backdoor for the opening strike of the game.

Sun Valley tied the game six minutes later on a similar cross-ice tap in and after 20 minutes a victory for Reno still seemed attainable with the scored knotted 1-1.

Reno was assessed for two penalties in the second stanza and successfully killed both Peterson Wealth Management Penalty Kills allowing only two shots across the four minutes.

However the Suns played a cohesive, disciplined game moving the puck quickly and efficiently as a five-man unit out of their zone and into Reno's. The Suns put up seven unanswered even-strength goals from the 1:44 mark of the second through the 9:04 mark of the third. Suns goaltender Ben McLean was a wall in net preventing the Ice Raiders from mounting a comeback. 

Bobby Watson sniped a corner over McLean halfway through the third leaving Reno with 10 minutes to make up five goals. The Suns stifling defense and crisp offense was too much for Reno as they added one more for the 8-2 final.

Justis Gyori stopped 29 of 37 shots and the ones he couldn't stop were mostly one timers from cross-ice passes or other high-quality looks in the dangerous scoring areas. Ice Raiders put 28 shots on McLean and only the two got by. Reno killed all five Peterson Wealth Management Penalty Kills on the night and didn't get their first Brewer's Cabinet Power Play until the last seven seconds of the game which had already been decided. Chris Whitten, celebrating his birthday weekend in the Ice Raiders' lineup, led all centers in the game winning 75 percent of his draws (9-3). Johnny Garrity was second at 66.7 percent going 14-7. Overall Reno did control the game's draws 30-25.

The Reno Ice Raiders nearly managed the comeback on Saturday but still fell to the Suns 7-5 on Saturday's series finale.

Reno had an early first period chance on a Brewer's Cabinet Power Play after Zeph Fagergren (who did a marvelous job designing the weekend's custom cancer-awareness jerseys) was tripped in the neutral zone. The Ice Raiders had decent sustained pressure but only mustered one shot on the power play.

Right after the power play expired, Justin Sand stopped Joey Sides on the breakaway for the Lone Wolf's Chop Rodz Save of the Night to keep the game scoreless. 

Late in the first, Jon Sobieski was boarded by Trevor Thomas and Tony Tyrell came to Sobi's defense to make Thomas pay in the BJ"s Nevada BBQ Kickass Fries Fight of the Night. On ensuing Brewer's Cabinet Power Play faceoff, the Ice Raiders won the draw, worked the puck around for a shot on goal by Matt Robinson, making his return to the lineup after a four-month absence with an upper body injury. Robison's shot was saved but the rebound was pounded home by Jake Minton for the 1-0 lead.

One minute later, Hunter Sine's outlet sprung Jon Sobieski and Robinson for a 2-on-1 and Sobieski's laser put Reno up 2-0.

Sun Valley answered on the next shift after a Reno icing. DJ Robinson's wrister got by Sand who screened on the play but the Ice Raiders still took a 2-1 and optimism to the intermission.

"We talked about playing good solid defense first and then making sure we got the puck out and then the offense will come from there," said Ice Raiders' Coach Tim Tookey. "Both teams played well and both goalies played well."

Fortunes reversed for Reno in the middle frame as Sun Valley struck three times in a seven-minute span including two power play goals to take a 4-2 lead. 

In the final minute of the second, Sobieski carried the puck from his defensive zone to the Sun's circle and rifled a wrister through the goalie's elbow to give Reno renewed life and a one-goal deficit at 4-3.

The Reno defense stifled the Suns through the early parts of the third period. Shortly after Sand made a save with the upper shaft of his stick, Bobby Watson connected to a streaking Minton and "Minty Fresh'' put a perfect shot over the pad and under the glove tying the score at 4-4.

Sun Valley took control again with three more goals in a span of less than five minutes, all at even strength, to jump to a 7-4 lead.

With just over three minutes to play, Johnny Garrity slammed in a rebound to pull the Ice Raiders within two at 7-5. Coach Tookey called a timeout to sort things out and to get ready to pull Sand from the net. However the Suns turned up their defense and the Ice Raiders could only get one shot in the final three minutes on the way to the 7-5 loss.

Despite the sweep and the inclement weather, Ice Raiders fans were treated to a weekend of high-quality again at The Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena.

"The fact that we had a sold out crowd come during a blizzard just shows how dedicated these fans are and how hungry they are for hockey," said Jake Minton, Saturday's LT Automotive Number One Star of the Game. "So to be playing in front of all these dedicated fans it really gives me some more motivation and life. So thanks to everyone who showed up. Love you all."

Justin Sand made 35 saves on 42 shots while Tripp Hutchinson only faced 23 Ice Raiders' attempts on goal. Reno owned the faceoffs by a much wider margin on Saturday at 65.2 percent.

The biggest winner of the weekend was the Cancer Community Clubhouse (CCC), the beneficiary of over $3,000 in silent auction proceeds from the limited edition Ice Raiders jerseys sponsored by Hard Times Muy Thai (previously known as Reno City Kickboxing). 

The CCC serves members throughout rural & Northern Nevada and aims to create a space of connection for cancer patients and survivors of all ages and their loved ones through free community-based and volunteer-supported services in Northern Nevada.

If you were not able to attend the games or bid on the jerseys, you can still help the CCC. Go to and make your tax-deductible donation today.

The Ice Raiders have next weekend off and will return to action March 15th and 16th against the Sin City Kings presented by BJ's Nevada BBQ. The Ice Raiders will have special St. Patrick's Day Jerseys and gear available for sale. Tickets will go on sale March 8th.

Friday, 3.1.24 - Game 13: Reno Ice Raiders vs. Sun Valley Suns Highlights:

Saturday, 3.2.24 - Game 14: Reno Ice Raiders vs. Sun Valley Suns Highlights:


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page