Junior forward Matt Hagel scored the game-winning goal with 2 minutes, 33 seconds, left in overtime to send the Kenai Central hockey to a 6-5 win over Homer on Tuesday night at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.
In a crucial meeting between the two teams, both Northern Lights Conference opponents, Kenai answered Homer with a game-tying goal on three different occasions, including Levi Mese’s opportunistic shot on a rebound with 6:33 left to play in the third period, forcing a 5-all tie and the subsequent eight-minute overtime.
After Kardinals goaltender Ryan Williams stood strong against a relentless barrage of Mariners shots in the opening minutes of overtime, Kenai finally put the puck in Homer’s zone and made it worth their while. Mese’s shot on Homer goalie Hunter Warren smacked his pads, and Hagel was there to slot in the rebound to win it.
“I was in the right place, right time,” Hagel said. “We had the mentality in the third period that we’ve been here before.”
Kenai had also won in overtime at the Multipurpose Facility in its previous game there. The Kards are now 2-2 on their new home ice.
With the win, Kenai moved to 2-7 in NLC play, while Homer suffered its third loss in a row.
Robby Larson recorded a hat trick for the Mariners, who held three separate leads throughout the game, but could not hold on late.
Homer drubbed Kenai 12-3 on Dec. 16, the last time the teams met, but a rejuvenated Kardinals squad returned with a vengeance Tuesday. With the region tournament approaching, any victory could be big in avoiding the sixth seed. Kenai head coach Michael Tilly said he would feel much more comfortable competing in the 4-5 matchup than the 3-6 matchup at the NLC tourney.
“At this point in the season, this is huge,” he said. “I think we proved to them which team wanted it more, and which team had the will to win.”
The game was tied for 31:56 of the total 50:27 of game time, including overtime, and Kenai led the shot count by a very slim margin of 40 to 39.
Robby Larson recorded a hat trick for the Mariners, who held three separate leads throughout the game.
Kenai led 2-0 early with goals from Mese and Hagel, but Larson got Homer going with a strike midway through the first period and put the Mariners ahead 3-2 with 28 seconds left in the frame on a penalty kill.
Bailey Maxson tied the game at 3 apiece just 2:34 into the second period, and Miles Marston pulled the same feat just 1:18 into the third, tying it at 4-all with a nifty wrister.
Homer killed off two Kenai power plays in the third period, but couldn’t hold on during a neutral advantage when Mese swooped in on a rebound to tie the game.
Homer is now 3-1 this season against Kenai.
Kardinals 6, Mariners 5, OT
Homer 3 1 1 0 — 5
Kenai 2 1 2 1 — 6
First period — 1. Kenai, Mese (Hagel), 3:21; 2. Kenai, Hagel (Beiser), 5:46; 3. Homer, Larson (unassisted), 7:59; 4. Homer, Warren (Weston, Ross), 11:54; 5. Homer, Larson (Blakely), SH, 14:32. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00; Kenai Central 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 6. Kenai, Maxson (Knudsen), 2:34; 7. Homer, Nevak (Pitzman, Lowe), 13:48. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00; Kenai Central 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 8. Kenai, Marston (unassisted), 1:18; 9. Homer, Larson (Blakely), 4:01; 10. Kenai, Mese (Hagel), 8:27. Penalties — Homer 3 for 6:00; Kenai Central 2 for 2:00.
Overtime — 11. Kenai, Hagel (Mese), 5:27.
Shots on goal — Homer 12-15-6-6—39; Kenai Central 15-10-10-5—40.