The Jackson Hole Moose hockey team put on a show in its opening games of the team’s 25th season on ice this weekend, taking care of the Reno Ice Raiders in comfortable fashion.

Proving too much for Reno to handle, the Moose (2-0) kept their foot on the gas until the closing seconds of each game, earning well-earned 16-0 and 8-2 victories to jump-start the season.

“We’ve blown some leads in the past and gotten a little too comfortable and it comes back to bite you. We just tried to keep our foot on the pedal on Friday and just keep playing our game,” forward A.J. Sanders said.

The Moose definitely kept their foot on the gas during Friday’s blowout, outshooting the Ice Raiders (0-2) by a 60-26 margin in the season’s opening game.

Eric Ballard, the head coach of the Moose, always instructs his teams to play until the final whistle.

“For me personally, I’ve always coached as if it’s a 0-0 game,” Ballard said. “I don’t focus too much on the score one way or the other. That’s why they put the time on the clock … It’s not over until it’s completely depleted.”

Practicing against their own teammates for the past couple of months, the Moose were able to jump right out of the gate without having to shake off any rust from the off-season.

“We were good from the start,” Ballard said. “We’ve had some really good practices over the last few weeks, so I think we were firing on all cylinders. I don’t think we had to knock off any rust. I knocked the rust off the boys about five weeks ago.”

Sanders, playing in his eighth season for the Moose, led the team with an impressive seven goals, and also contributing seven assists over the two-game span.

Over the same stretch, forward Drew Akins led the team with nine assists, while also finding the back of the net four times.

Third-year forward Jason Reese also contributed four goals.

Goalies Nick Krauss and Robbie Leslie shared duties over the weekend, both finding success and allowing the Moose to play from ahead the entire weekend.

Krauss, the longtime goalie of the Moose, missed last season, and his teammates are glad to have him back in the pipes.

“[Krauss] is our ‘MVP’ every year,” Sanders said. “I think we were fortunate last year to get some good help from some rookies, but we’re definitely glad to have him back.”

Krauss started in game one, and his night couldn’t have gone any smoother, earning a shutout.

“There’s no question [Krauss] is a proven winner,” Ballard said. “We’re excited to see him in his first game back, take that shutout. That young man can play another five to six years from now and not lose a step.”

The big lead also allowed Ballard to give his starters some rest, while providing an opportunity to get the new team members up to speed with the pace and physicality of their competition.

Leslie, a first-year Moose, took over in the net for game two and allowed just two goals, finishing with a .917 save percentage.

A full capacity crowd looked on for the first time since 2019, and the diehard Moose fans made their presence known, cheering from start to finish in both of the teams’ opening weekend victories.

“Playing in front of the fans is the biggest reason we do it anyway … it’s just been nice to hear some cheers in the crowd again,” Sanders said.

The Moose will take a couple weeks off from competition before they hit the ice again Nov. 12, kicking off a two-game series against the Bozeman Stingers at home.

Contact Will Aldrich at 732-7065 or sports@jhnewsandguide.com.

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