Homer skater Tyler Gilliland (center) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the second period Tuesday night against Soldotna at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer skater Tyler Gilliland (center) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the second period Tuesday night against Soldotna at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer hockey tops SoHi

The loss of eight key Homer seniors coupled with the returning cast of rising Soldotna skaters left the debate of who would stand as the top peninsula hockey team in question as this prep season opened.

The Homer Mariners helped answer the question to that debate Tuesday night with a statement win on SoHi’s home ice, prevailing 6-3 in a feisty Railbelt Conference meeting at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Homer lost to SoHi 4-0 on Dec. 7 at its home rink, but channeled energy and momentum into its raucous style of play to return the favor Tuesday.

Homer junior Ethan Pitzman rang up a hat trick and tallied the biggest goal of the night with 6:18 to go to give Homer the lead back after SoHi rallied to tie it in the third period.

“We kept the energy up on the bench, yelling and tapping the boards,” Pitzman said. “We just tried to keep any momentum up.”

Isaiah Nevak notched two goals for Homer, while Hunter Warren held up his end in the Mariners net with 32 saves on 35 shots

“We can always count on Hunter,” said Homer head coach Steve Nevak. “It’s never a worry with him in goal.”

SoHi starting goaltender Josh Tree stopped nine of 12 shots over the first two periods, then Corbin Wirz took over for the third frame to stop four of six shots.

Alex Montague, Galen Brantley III and Ethan Yeager scored each for SoHi.

The play at times became rough as both teams fought for every inch and resulted in some pushing and shoving late in the second period. Homer committed eight penalties in the final two periods alone.

Pitzman said he knows many of SoHi’s players well from the club level, but when the two high school teams face off, there are no friends — at least for 45 minutes.

“We scored 10 (goals) on them regularly last year, but this year we came out and wanted to show we can still do it,” Pitzman said. “… It’s a friendly rivalry, but I think we showed we can (still be the top team) tonight.”

After a breakout 2017 season that saw Homer stake its claim as not only the top peninsula team, but one of the top teams in the conference, the Mariners returned in 2018 challenged to regain that glory after the loss of a star-studded senior class.

While the Mariners haven’t shown the kind of goal-scoring punch they had last year, Pitzman and company still have a 6-1 conference record. Soldotna (7-1 Railbelt) lost its first conference contest this season.

Nevak said as the play between the two teams has evened out in 2018, any night could go either way between Homer and SoHi.

“It’s any given night right now,” Nevak said. “Who knows?”

Montague opened the scoring for SoHi just 3:47 into the game with a breakaway chance that Montague finished with an upper left shot into the netting, putting the Stars up 1-0.

Pitzman scored his first of the evening with 4:58 left in the first period to even it up, taking a cross-ice pass from Tucker Weston to slot in the goal.

Tyler Gilliland gave Homer the lead at 2-1 early in the second period, intercepting a pass from the SoHi blue line and slapping home the go-ahead goal, and Pitzman scored his second of the night on the power play midway through the frame for a 3-1 Homer lead.

Soldotna came roaring back in the third period, however. Brantley III collected the puck at the right corner of the crease and had an easy look at net to score less than two minutes into the third to cut the Homer lead to 3-2.

Yeager then tied the game with 7:30 left as a shot rebounded off the pads of Warren, then trickled back and underneath Warren to sneak in for a game-tying goal.

However, Pitzman completed his hat trick with his biggest goal of the night with 6:18 to go, rattling a wrist shot by Wirz to give the Mariners the lead back at 4-3.

“I told the boys, ‘Let’s dig, let’s get this,’” Nevak said. “Hockey is a game of superstars, and Ethan is a star, and he showed up.”

Isaiah Nevak sealed the victory with two goals in the final 3:07, the second coming on a short-handed empty-netter from the opposing faceoff circle.

Mariners 6, Stars 3

Homer 1 2 3 —6

Soldotna 1 0 2 —3

First period — 1. Soldotna, Montague (unassisted), 3:47; 2. Homer, Pitzman (Gilliland, Weston), 10:02. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 3. Homer, Gilliland (unassisted), 2:13; 4. Homer, Pitzman (Nevak, Green), PP, 8:49. Penalties — Homer 3 for 6:00; Soldotna 3 for 6:00.

Third period — 5. Soldotna, Brantley (Haakenson), PP, 1:51; 6. Soldotna, Yeager (Medcoff, Miller), 7:28; 7. Homer, Pitzman (unassisted), 8:42; 8. Homer, Nevak (Gilliland, Shafford), 11:53; 9. Homer, Nevak (unassisted), SH, 13:26. Penalties — Homer 5 for 10:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal — Homer 3-9-7—19; Soldotna 10-12-13—35.

Goalies — Homer, Warren (35 shots, 32 saves); Soldotna, Tree (12 shots, 9 saves) Wirz (6 shots, 4 saves).

Homer goalie Hunter Warren fends off a shot by Soldotna’s Galen Brantley III Tuesday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer goalie Hunter Warren fends off a shot by Soldotna’s Galen Brantley III Tuesday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Wyatt Medcoff works the puck down the ice Tuesday night against Homer at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Wyatt Medcoff works the puck down the ice Tuesday night against Homer at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

More in Sports

tease
Friday: Twins top South, fall to Service

The American Legion Post 20 Twins split a doubleheader in Anchorage on… Continue reading

tease
Chase Laker, Kate Cox win Salmon Run Series 1

Chase Laker and Kate Cox won the first Salmon Run Series race… Continue reading

Peninsula Oilers reliever Cameron Teper delivers to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on Thursday, July 11, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Thursday: Oilers top Chinooks in sudden death

The Peninsula Oilers defeated the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks 4-3 in sudden death… Continue reading

Kristen Faulkner is pictured in her official Olympic portrait photo. (Photo by Evan Kay with Climb High Productions, provided by Kristen Faulkner)
Homer’s Faulkner now will compete in 2 Olympic events

USA Cycling announced Tuesday, July 9, that Kristen Faulkner, who grew up… Continue reading

Fans watch Mini Stock Heat 2 on Sunday, July 7, 2024, in the Skylar Thomas Lyon Memorial at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Hale wins 30-lap A Stock feature at Skylar Thomas Lyon Memorial

Jimmie Hale won the 30-lap A Stock feature Sunday, July 7, at… Continue reading

tease
Monday: Oilers finish road trip on high note by topping Chinooks

Robson hits 2 2-run home runs off foul pole

Peninsula Oilers infielder Petey Soto tries to make a play during a 2-1 loss to the Mat-Su Miners on Sunday, July 7, 2024, at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer, Alaska. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)
Sunday: Miners nip Oilers

The Peninsula Oilers lost 2-1 to the Mat-Su Miners in Alaska Baseball… Continue reading

tease
Sunday: Twins post dominant sweep of Bartlett

The American Legion Post 20 Twins swept Post 29 Bartlett on Sunday… Continue reading

Post 20 Twins third baseman Gabe Smith explores the puddle at his position Saturday, July 6, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Saturday: Twins walk off on Chugiak in extra innings

The American Legion Post 20 Twins defeated Post 33 Chugiak 3-2 in… Continue reading

Most Read