HOMER — The Palmer Moose appeared to be headed to overtime. But a last-second Soldotna shot stunned the Moose and ended Palmer’s 2013-14 season.
Soldotna forward Ty Fenton ripped a shot into the back of the Palmer net during the final second of regulation to give the Stars a 3-2 victory during the first round of the North Star Conference championships in Homer on Thursday evening.
The Kenai Kardinals later moved on in a much less dramatic fashion, topping Homer 4-1.
With NSC rivals Palmer and Soldotna knotted at 2 and his team skating on the power play, Fenton took a centering pass from defenseman Jacob O’Lena and managed to snap the puck into the net before the final buzzer sounded. Nick Wrobel started the play, moving the puck to O’Lena in the neutral zone. O’Lena skated down into the corner and behind the Palmer net. As the final seconds ticked off the third-period clock, O’Lena was able to slip a pass to the slot to set up the score.
It was the second power-play goal for Soldotna, the No. 3 seed in the tourney, and helped set up a semifinal match with second-seeded Colony. The teams face off Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Homer.
Palmer, the No. 6 seed, took an early lead, scoring within the first four minutes of regulation. Taylor Foster scored on the power play, knocking the rebound of a Jarrett Johns shot at the 3:44 mark. Less than four minutes later, with the Stars skating on the power play, Kenny Griffin tied the game with a rebound goal of his own. A Wrobel shot set up the Griffin goal.
Wrobel gave his team the lead early in the third period. Parked at the bottom of the left wing circle, Wrobel knocked a puck in the net to give SoHi the 2-1 advantage.
Later in the third, Foster scored again to tie the score at 2. After a Palmer shot from the right point, the puck took a bounce off a Soldotna skate. During a scramble for the puck, Foster was able to knock it in.
Palmer was within reach of scoring a first-round upset as the sixth seed for the second straight year. Last year, sixth-seeded Palmer beat Colony in the first round. The game also marked the third time Palmer suffered a 3-2 loss to the Stars this season.
Kenai received two goals from Jake Eubank in topping Homer 4-1. It was the fourth time this season the Kards have topped the Mariners.
Isaac Mese started the scoring for Kenai, assisted by Ross Hanson. Then Nathan Zorbas scored on assists from Eubank and TJ Wagoner. Eubank then put the Kards up 3-0 on an assist from TJ Wagoner. In the third period, Eubank put the Kards up 4-0 on an assist from Nathan Zorbas.
Kiril Sanarov had the lone goal for Homer, assisted by Tommy Bowe and Dawson Roberts.
Justin Alvey made 19 saves for Kenai, while Markian Polushkin had 18 for Homer.
Kenai faces top seed Wasilla in the semifinals at 5 p.m. for a state berth. The Warriors have defeated the Kardinals twice this season.
Soldotna 3, Palmer 2
First period — 1. Palmer- Fish (Johns, Savel) pp 11:16; 2. Soldotna- Griffin (Wrobel) pp 7:54.
Second period — 3. Soldotna- Wrobel (Griffin) 6:15; 4. Palmer- Foster (Dojka, Moistner) pp 4:58; 5. Soldotna- Fenton (O’Lena) pp 00:01.
Shots on goal: Palmer 6-5-5—16, Soldotna 7-12-9—28; Saves: Palmer- Grogan 6-12-7—25, Soldotna- Harvey 5-5-4—14.