Aspen push the Moose to the limit in two tough games

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The Jackson Hole Moose had their big guns step up when they needed to over the weekend as the hometowners stole one from Aspen on Friday and won another close one Saturday. Both games were hard fought, every-loose-puck-contested affairs between two teams who clearly wanted a win.

Friday – Moose 6, Leafs 5

The top line did most of the heavy lifting all weekend. LW Kevin Sunde (#89), C AJ Sanders (#61), and RW Tom Hartnett (#24) line up here for a face-off at center ice. (Jami Davis)

The Leafs came out flying Friday. They were the better team for 55 minutes, jumping out to a 3-1 lead after one, and up by a pair with less than five minutes to play in regulations.

It was Jackson’s top line (Sanders-Hartnett-Sunde) head coach Howie Carruth relied on all game, shortening the bench in the third in order to get them on the ice every other shift. AJ Sanders (2G, 3A) tallied once in each of the two first periods to keep the Moose in it. Linemate Tom Hartnett (1G, 3A) fed him the puck both times.

Kevin Sunde’s (3G, 1A) pair in the third got the Moose within a goal but time was running out. That’s when Harnett found the back of the net for the tying goal with just 44 seconds remaining in the game.

Sunde finished his hat trick night with a goal in the 3-on-3 overtime to give the Moose a 6-5 win.

Saturday – Moose 4, Leafs 2

Saturday was a war. Jackson again found themselves chasing Aspen early Saturday—falling behind by a goal early in the first period as well as the second.

Both goalies were sharp in a physical game that saw 67 minutes in penalties (43 against the Moose, 24 going against the Leafs).

Chase Wharton got the Moose’s first goal with a power-play tally from Sanders and Hartnett. A goal from Alex Dewitz tied the game again in the second period.

Sanders potted the eventual game-winner early in the third on a feed from Sage Welch and Hartnett. Minutes later, Hartnett found the late trailer Welch sneaking in from the point with a perfect pass and Welch did not miss from the top of the circles with a wrist shot over the glove of Aspen goalie Leetal Levran.

Jackson kept it conservative for the remaining penalty-filled final 10 minutes, nursing the two-goal lead and getting stellar goaltending from Nick Krauss.

The Moose travel to Bozeman for an important final two league games. Sun Valley has just one loss to a Black Diamond Hockey League opponent (at the hands of the Moose). The Suns are 11-3 on the year after two losses to the East Coast Gutter Snipes on Jan. 18-19. The Suns beat the Bozeman Stingers 2-1 and 6-5 on January 25-26.

The Moose beat the Stingers 7-5 and 9-7 to start the season on Nov. 2-3.

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