The Dimond junior varsity won the Peninsula Ice Challenge on Saturday at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility.
Saturday, the Lynx topped Delta Junction 10-1 while Kenai Central defeated Soldotna 6-5. This set up a three-way tie at the top of the table, with Soldotna, Kenai and Dimond JV all finishing 2-1.
Dimond and Kenai finished ahead of Soldotna due to allowing the least goals. Because Dimond and Kenai allowed the same amount of goals, it came down to head-to-head play and Dimond’s 2-1 victory over Kenai on Friday carried the day.
Against Soldotna, Kenai took a 2-0 lead after the first period with Jacob Begich and Zachary Burnett scoring the goals.
In the second period, Galen Brantley III cut it to 2-1, but Nate Beiser came right back with a goal. Spencer Kapp scored for Soldotna, but Beiser answered again for Kenai. Dylan Walton would then score for Soldotna to make it 4-3 after the second period.
In the third period, the Kards stretched the lead to 6-3 on goals by Tucker Vann and Begich. But Brantley III and Medcoff sliced the lead back to 6-5.
Soldotna head coach Indy Walton said his team pulled the goalie and pressured Kenai for the final two minutes, but could not find the equalizer against Kenai goalie Thomas Baker.
“That Baker kid showed a lot of composure and came up really big,” Walton said.
The coach said his team made some costly defensive turnovers, and Walton gave Kenai credit for capitalizing on those turnovers.
Baker made 45 saves for Kenai. For Soldotna, Corbin Wirz stopped 19 and Josh Tree stopped 10.
Dimond JV 2, Kenai 1
The Dimond JV survived a final few frantic minutes Friday night to secure a 2-1 victory over the Kenai Central hockey team at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility.
The Kardinals struggled to break out in a game heavy with penalty minutes, as Kenai was handed 13 penalties for 29 minutes in the box. The Lynx weren’t much better with 11 penalties for 22 minutes.
First-year Kenai head coach Scott Shelden, fresh off an inaugural victory in his first start Thursday, said Kenai had the ingredients for another win Friday if not for the constant penalty kills.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Shelden said. “Obviously we were kind of hurting ourselves, and the kids got to fix it.
“We’ve just got to change our approach.”
Kenai goaltender Jackson Cross finished the game with 30 saves on 32 shots, keeping the Kardinals in the game. With goaltending like that, combined with two games that has seen the offense produce 98 shots on goal, Shelden is happy with the squad so far in 2019.
“I love the vibe so far,” he said. “It’s exciting, we’ve got great leadership.”
The Kards showcased an improved attack with 42 shots on Dimond freshmen goalies Beau Brown and Kaden Stilwell, who combined for the one-goal performance with 41 saves. Brown stopped 28 of 29 shots on goal while Stilwell finished the job with 13 saves in the third period.
Dimond JV coach Chris Gardeline called it a gritty win, adding that the defensive lines in front of Brown and Stilwell did their part to contain Kenai.
“The boys knew we had a tough task going into the third period at 2-1, we knew (Kenai) would give it their all,” Gardeline said. “We weathered the storm, got pucks deep, chipped it in. A lot of big blocked shots, I think that definitely helped us. The guys knew they had to just play a defensive game.”
Dimond lit the lamp first with a goal from freshman winger Chris Horton, who capitalized on a mad scrum at the goal to chip in a rebound past Cross.
The Kards answered back just 67 seconds later when junior forward Aidan Milburn collected a rebound that soared high off the pads of Brown and into the left corner, depositing the goal from deep to tie the game with 6:28 left in the first period.
The Lynx got the lead back late in the first period on a power-play strike from sophomore Mason Ellis, who received the assist in open ice and streaked down the right boards to lift a shot past Cross, putting Dimond up 2-1.
The lead stood the rest of the way, a total of 33 minutes, 19 seconds, of game time that Kenai couldn’t use to crack the goalies, although there were several close shaves in the final minutes. Senior skater Jordan Knudsen had a breakaway look on goal but was denied.
With 57 seconds left in the game, Dimond was charged with an elbowing penalty, but Kenai was denied the power play with an unsportsmanlike call that nullified the man advantage. The Kards pulled their goalie with about 40 seconds to play, then got a 6-on-4 power play with 20 seconds left on a tripping call on Dimond.
Shelden said he has no concerns on the team’s scoring strength.
“The goals will come if we keep doing this,” he said. “It’s just technique, and mental. We just need to focus on the puck.”
Kenai will face off with Soldotna Saturday at 4:30 p.m., following the Delta vs. Dimond JV game at 2 p.m.
Soldotna 13, Delta 3
The Stars moved to 2-0 in the tournament by running away from Delta as the game went on.
Wyatt Medcoff had six assists, plus a goal, for Soldotna, while Galen Brantley III had four goals and two assists. Journey Miller added two goals and two assists, while Spencer Kapp had four assists.
Also for the Stars, Ethan Yeager had two goals and an assist, Dylan Walton had a goal and an assist, Gavin Haakenson had a goal and freshman Silas Larsen had his first varsity goal, plus an assist.
Dylan Dahlgren and David Aley added assists for Soldotna, which won the shot count 88-22.
Despite the lopsided loss, Delta Junction head coach Andy Hudgin was happy to have had the experience.
The Huskies do not have a refrigerated rink, so their first time on ice was an 8-0 loss to Kenai Central on Thursday.
“We’re still on the gravel,” Hudgin said. “It’s supposed to get a little colder, so hopefully we’ll be on ice in a few weeks.”
Delta was able to get in its first practice of the season Friday morning. Hudgin said his team came out and played with better structure.
After Justin Gerhart had an unassisted goal in the first period, Jacob Anderson, assisted by Gerhart and Darren Hjelm, lit the lamp to cut SoHi’s lead to 3-2 with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first period.
One thing the Huskies didn’t get to work on was the power play and penalty kill, and Soldotna would have four short-handed goals and two power-play goals to open up the score.
“We’re learning to put ourselves together earlier and earlier,” Hudgin said. “We’ve never had games this early before.”
Soldotna head coach Indy Walton was disappointed with the way his team started the game. The Stars defeated Delta 10-1 at state last season, and Walton said his squad may have come in overconfident.
He said the emphasis going in was passing and not allowing goals, since the tiebreaker at the tournament is goals allowed.
Walton said his team didn’t do a good job of either thing early in the game.
“I have higher expectations,” he said. “We can play better. We gave up three goals and they have nine skaters, and we had 18.”
Walton said the passing improved as the game went on.
He credited Medcoff and Miller for jump-starting the team with energetic play on the penalty kill that led to short-handed goals.
Walton said Ethan Yeager and Dylan Dahlgren were good on the power play, while Spencer Kapp did a good job passing from his defenseman position.
The coach said goalie Josh Tree pulled himself after allowing a third goal about five minutes into the second period. Corbin Wirz shut the Huskies out the rest of the way.
Walton said Tree did not play poorly. He just got some unfortunate bounces.
“It’s a tough position,” the coach said. “There’s a lot of pressure.”
Hudgin said centers Gerhart and Steven Warren, who scored in the second period, did a good job of puck possession. Tyler Hudgin was solid on defense.
Last but not least is Delta goalie Greg Hanson, who faced those 88 shots.
“Their goalie came up huge,” Walton said. “He had three saves that were worthy of ESPN.”
Lynx 2, Kardinals 1
Dimond JV 2 0 0 —2
Kenai Central 1 0 0 —1
1st period — 1. Dimond, Horton (Horschel), 7:25; 2. Kenai, Milburn (Begich), 8:32; 3. Dimond, Ellis (Bernstein), PP, 11:41. Penalties — Kenai 4 for 8:00; Dimond 1 for 2:00.
2nd period — no scoring. Penalties — Kenai 5 for 13:00; Dimond 5 for 10:00.
3rd period — no scoring. Penalties — Kenai 4 for 8:00; Dimond 5 for 10:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai 15-14-13—42; Dimond 11-9-12—32.
Goalies — Kenai, Cross (32 shots, 30 saves); Dimond, Brown (29 shots, 28 saves), Stilwell (13 shots, 13 saves).
Stars 13, Huskies 3
Delta 2 1 0 — 3
Soldotna 6 3 4 — 13
First period — 1. Soldotna, Brantley III (un.), 0:40; 2. Delta, Gerhart (un.), 1:25; 3. Soldotna, J. Miller (Medcoff, Brantley III), 4:53; 4. Soldotna, J. Miller (Medcoff, Dahlgren), sh, 8:43; 5. Delta, Anderson (Gerhart, Hjelm), pp, 9:35; 6. Soldotna, Brantley III (J. Miller, Medcoff), sh, 11:29; 7. Soldotna, Walton (Brantley III), sh, 12:11; 8. Soldotna, Brantley III (Medcoff, J. Miller), sh, 14:33. Penalties — Soldotna 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 9. Soldotna, Brantley III (Aley), 4:37; 10. Delta, Warren (Anderson, Hudgin), 4:59; 11. Soldotna, Yeager (Kapp, Walton), 8:45; 12. Soldotna, Haakenson (Yeager, Kapp), pp, 11:14. Penalties — Delta 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 13. Soldotna, Medcoff (un.), 0:08; 14. Sodotna, A. Montague (Kapp, Larsen), 2:51; 15. Soldotna, Yeager (Medcoff), 10:17; 16. Soldotna, Larsen (Medcoff, Kapp), pp, 13:45. Penalties — Delta 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Delta 12-4-6—22; Soldotna 25-31-32—88.
Goalies — Delta, Hanson (88 shots, 76 saves); Soldotna, Tree (14 shots, 11 saves); Wirz (8 shots, 8 saves).
Kardinals 6, Stars 5
Soldotna 0 3 2 — 5
Kenai 2 2 2 — 6
First period — 1. Kenai, Begich (Vann), 3:23; 2. Kenai, Burnett (Knudsen, Beiser), 14:59. Penalties — Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Soldotna, Brantley III (A. Montague), pp, 4:13; 4. Kenai, Beiser (Knudsen), 4:22; 5. Soldotna, Kapp (Medcoff), 9:19; 6. Kenai, Beiser (un.), 10:11; 7. Soldotna, Walton (un.), 12:15. Penalties — Soldotna 4 for 8:00; Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 8. Kenai, Vann (un.), 5:25; 9. Kenai, Begich (un.), 6:25; 10. Soldotna, Brantley III (Aley, Larsen), 8:26; 11. Soldotna, Medcoff (Brantley III), 10:46. Penalties — Soldotna 3 for 6:00; Kenai 5 for 10:00.
Shots on goal — Soldotna 15-11-24—50; Kenai 14-11-10—35.