Tyler Gilliland slotted in the gamewinning goal three minutes into overtime to fuel the Homer Mariners to a wild 8-7 victory over Kenai Central Thursday evening at the Peninsula Ice Challenge at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The barnburner saw the two sides swap the lead a staggering eight times over the course of 45 minutes, and in the end, Homer used eight different players to score, while Kenai got a hat trick out of Levi Mese and two goals from Jakeb O’Brien.
“This is basically a shakedown tournament where everyone may be a little rusty,” said Kenai coach Michael Tilly. “Our returners were the main ones that could anticipate the speed of the game.”
Homer opened the scoring midway through the first period with a strike from Tim Blakely, but Kenai twice tied it up in the ensuing minutes. The Kards took a brief 3-2 lead after Mese notched his second goal of the evening with 2 minutes, 26 seconds, to play, but the Mariners knotted it up again over a minute later thanks to Tucker Weston’s hot hands.
Homer scored the lone goal of the second period on the power play from Spencer Warren.
However, Kenai roared back with a goal just 12 seconds into the third period from Matthew Zorbas, putting everything square at 4-all, and O’Brien gave Kenai its second lead of the night within two minutes.
Homer answered with two straight strikes from JJ Williamson and Douglas Dean to take the 6-5 lead, and Kenai responded with a score of their own by Bailey Maxson to tie it up yet again.
Robby Larson hit the netting with 6:47 to play to put Homer ahead 7-6. It all amounted to a flurry of six goals in a span of eight minutes.
“After tonight I told the guys that we have to reset and go back at it tomorrow,” said first-year Homer coach Justin Adams.
It was 18 seconds into a Kenai power play that saw the game tying goal from Mese to force overtime. Mese caught the puck in space and slipped it by Homer goalie Hunter Warren with 3:28 to go, finishing his hat trick.
Both teams found chances to score in the eight-minute overtime period, but it was Gilliland that broke loose on the left side and flicked a wrist shot past Kenai’s Ryan Williams to end the game.
Coach Tilly said the game provided ample opportunity to see where the Kards’ weaknesses lie.
“I told them if this is where we have to start, I’m pretty happy,” Tilly said.
Kenai will play Houston today at 8 p.m.
Soldotna 3, Houston 0
A pair of underclassmen sparked the Stars to their first win of the season Thursday at the Peninsula Ice Challenge.
Sophomore Braxton Urban notched two goals and freshman Parker Lockwood had one for himself as both players registered their first varsity goals of their high school careers.
“We’re happy with our young group of players, they’re going to be special,” said SoHi coach Derek Urban. “This’ll breathe some confidence into them.”
Junior Billy Yoder held the 17-save shutout for SoHi between the pipes to begin his third year as the varsity goaltender.
Urban struck first for the Stars at the nine-minute mark of the first period, then added an insurance goal just 41 seconds into the third. Lockwood finished the night with his debut goal at the 3:35 mark of the third period.
SoHi harassed Houston all game, putting 45 shots on goal.
Mariners 8, Kardinals 7, OT
Homer 3 1 3 1 —8
Kenai 3 0 4 0 —7
1st period — 1. Homer, Blakely (Butcher), 7:44; 2. Kenai, O’Brien (Beiser), 8:11; 3. Homer, Pitta (Williamson, McCarron), 10:29; 4. Kenai, Mese (Hagel), 11:41; 5. Kenai, Mese (O’Brien, Maxson), 12:34; 6. Homer, Weston (Pitta), 13:45.
2nd period — 7. Homer, Warren (Butcher), 11:02. Penalties — Kenai 5 or 10:00; Homer 3 for 6:00.
3rd period — 8. Kenai, Zorbas (Hagel, Mese), :12; 9. Kenai, O’Brien (Zorbas), 1:53; 10. Homer, Williamson (Weston, Pitta), 2:20; 11. Homer, Dean (Kuzmin, Ross), 6:20; 12. Kenai, Maxson (Hawkins, Eubank), 7:10; 13. Homer, Larson (Nevak), 8:13; 14. Kenai, Mese (unassisted), 11:32. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 15. Homer, Gilliland (Menke), 3:06.
Shots — Kenai 10-4-9-1—24; Homer 18-15-11-4—48.
Goalies — Kenai, Williams (48 shots, 40 saves); Homer, Warren (24 shots, 17 saves).
Stars 3, Hawks 0
Houston 0 0 0 —0
Soldotna 1 0 2 —3
1st period — 1. Soldotna, Urban (Hanson, Brown), 9:00. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2:00; Houston 3 for 6:00.
2nd period — no scoring. Penalties — Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
3rd period — 2. Soldotna, Urban (Hanson, Brown), :41; 3. Soldotna, Lockwood (Urban, Brown), 3:35. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2:00; Houston 1 for 2:00.
Shots — Soldotna 12-15-18—45; Houston 7-6-4—17.
Goalies — Soldotna, Yoder (17 shots, 17 saves); Houston, Nix (45 shots, 42 saves).
Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect that Kenai Central head coach Michael Tilly did not talk about goaltending with a reporter after the game.