Homer hockey escapes with OT win over SoHi

Saturday, the Soldotna hockey team defeated Colony 6-2 to knock the Knights out of a first-place tie in the North Star Conference.

Tuesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, the Stars lost 3-2 in overtime to Homer, which entered the game 0-8 in NSC play.

It could be a doozy of a conference hockey tournament at the sports complex from Feb. 4 to 6.

“We’re going to line up against somebody in the region tournament and play our hearts out,” Homer coach John Carlin said. “Tonight was just what we needed.

“I don’t care about our record or what happened the previous two months. Tonight, we hit the reset button.”

Carlin said the Mariners have been playing teams tough, but have been slowed by “injuries, ineligibilities and shenanigans.” Homer also has had a tough time scoring the puck.

But all that changed in the last 23 minutes of the game.

The Stars went up 1-0 in the second period when Ethan Brown started a power play by winning a faceoff to Jace Urban, who picked out Cameron Knowlton in front for the goal.

“I think we came out flat in the first period,” Soldotna assistant Jarrett Urban said after the Stars fell to 7-14 overall and 3-6 in the league. “It always seems like we do that against Homer, and I’m not sure why.

“You can’t take them lightly. They are a very good team that always plays hard.”

The Stars had defeated the Mariners 5-4 on Nov. 21 and 4-1 on Jan. 5. But early in the third period, the Mariners began serving notice that things would be different Tuesday.

With 13 minutes, 2 seconds, left in the game, Dimitry Kuzmin collected a faceoff at center ice and was off to the races. His first shot was stopped by SoHi goalie Billy Yoder, but Kuzmin pounced on the rebound to tie the game.

With 8:35 left, SoHi’s Cole Crandall took a shot into traffic from the point. Knowlton got control of the puck in front of the net and dished to Levi Hensley for a 2-1 game.

But Homer fought right back with a nice play out of the corner at the 7:39 mark. Kuzmin won the puck out of the corner and got it to Robby Larson on the near post.

Larson’s try bounced off Yoder to a wide-open Tim Blakely on the far post, and Blakely tied the game.

The overtime was like the rest of the game. SoHi had a slight edge in chances — the Stars outshot the Mariners 38-28 for the game and 7-3 in overtime — but the play was back-and-forth and for the most part even.

“It’s always a great game when we play them,” Carlin said.

Homer goalie Riley Swanson started the winning play by getting the puck along the boards to Daniel Wiest, who lofted the puck to the Soldotna blue line.

Garrett Butcher collected the puck with a full head of steam and flew in on Yoder, beating him with a high shot to the far post with 52.5 seconds showing on the clock.

“He made an outstanding shot, beating Billy on his glove said,” Jarrett Urban said.

Yoder made 25 saves, while Swanson had 36.

Jarrett Urban gave his third line — Braxton Urban, Keegan Wirz and Gabe Wackler — credit for a solid game.

Soldotna is off until Jan. 30, when the Stars face Kenai Central at 7 p.m. at the sports complex.

Homer hosts Bartlett on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at noon.

Tuesday

Mariners 3, Stars 2, OT

Homer 0 0 2 1 —3

Soldotna 0 1 1 0 —2

First period — none. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 1. Soldotna, Knowlton (J. Urban, Brown), pp, 2:11. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 2. Homer, Kuzmin (un.), 1:58; 3. Soldotna, Hensley (Knowlton), 6:25; 4. Homer, Blakely (Larson, Kuzmin), 7:21. Penalties — none.

Overtime — Homer, Butcher (Wiest, Swanson), 7:08. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal — Homer 8-8-9-3—28; Soldotna 8-11-12-7—38.

Goalies — Homer, Swanson (38 shots, 36 saves); Soldotna, Yoder (28 shots, 25 saves).

Power plays — Homer 0 for 2, Soldotna 1 for 1.

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