Kenai Central's Noah Hallam and Palmer's Tavian Mukaabya battle for the puck Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, during Kenai River Cup play at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer, Palmer, Colony win on 1st day of Kenai River Cup

Homer, Palmer and Colony won on the first day of the Kenai River Cup on Thursday at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility in Kenai.

The tournament, in its first year, was supposed to have eight teams and a championship bracket, but Delta and South were not able to make it.

With six teams, the tournament winner will now be determined on who has the best record over the three days, with tiebreakers sorting out the winner if necessary.

Thursday, Palmer defeated Kenai 5-3, Homer topped Kodiak 4-0 and Colony defeated Tri-Valley 6-1.

Today, Kodiak plays Tri-Valley at 2 p.m., Palmer plays Homer at 4:30 p.m. and Kenai plays Colony at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Tri-Valley plays Homer at 10 a.m., Colony plays Palmer at 12:30 p.m. and Kenai plays Kodiak at 3 p.m.

Palmer 5, Kenai 3

The Kardinals fell to 2-3 overall while the Moose are 4-1-1.

Palmer coach Rusty Belanger said he wasn’t sure if it was the road trip or overlooking Kenai, but he said the Kardinals and head coach Scott Shelden outcompeted his squad.

“I told Scott at the end of the game, ‘You guys have the grittiest team that we ever play against,’” Belanger said. “You bring that same attitude every time.

“Coaches that can bring that game in and game out — that’s a successful coach, win or lose. Scott should be proud of those boys tonight — they played well. We didn’t.”

Saturday, Palmer played Dimond to a 3-3 tie and Belanger said his squad didn’t get close to reaching that level against Kenai.

Shelden said with just five games in, he doesn’t have a great feel for his team yet, but there are some things he knows.

“I love our team,” he said. “We’ve got really good character kids. They’re not punching people after the whistle, everybody’s on time to practice and we treat each other like family.

“So I love the team. I don’t know how good we are yet.”

Palmer got on the board first, with Elijah Von Gunten, assisted by Sawyer Nelius, scoring short-handed with 4:38 left in the first period to get started on a hat trick.

Gavin Liles, assisted by Mason Vermette and Toby Petty, had things all square headed to the second period.

In the second period, Kenai committed four penalties to Palmer’s one and still exited with a 3-2 lead.

Von Gunten, assisted by Kaleb Von Gunten and Nelius, scored on the power play with 6:25 left in the second.

Kenai then took two more penalties and faced 22 seconds of five-on-three. Toby Petty totally turned the tables for the Kards by scoring short-handed just 10 seconds into the five-on-three.

“That changed the momentum,” Shelden said. “I think we’d given up a shorty prior to that, so it was nice to get one back.

“Toby Petty came up huge.”

Belanger said giving up a short-handed goal five-on-three is not acceptable.

“You just don’t do that,” he said. “The heart wasn’t there.”

Kenai carried that momentum into a power-play goal by Mason Vermette with 8 seconds left in the second period for a 3-2 lead.

“We almost got one more at the very end of the period,” Shelden said. “That carried us. We were pumped.

“Then whoever got the first goal in the third, I figured, was going to win this game.”

Unhappy with the way the second period ended, Belanger went from four lines to two to start the third period.

“We took the six kids that we thought were playing their game at the time, made those two lines and got the momentum back,” Belanger said. “Right toward the end, I think in the last five minutes, we started inserting players back in again.”

With 11:06 to play, Kaleb Von Gunten scored with help from Elijah Von Gunten and Bradford Heard. A little over a minute later, Heard scored with help from Kinan Greco and Elijah Von Gunten.

With 2:47 left, Elijah Von Gunten finished his hat trick on Greco and Ryan Martin assists.

Keagon O’Bryan stopped 16 pucks for the Moose, while Seanna Swanson had 35 saves for the Kards.

Shelden said Swanson was good in goal, and he also liked the way defenseman Sawyer Vann competed.

“Shots were 40-19,” Shelden said. “At some point, they just wear you down.”

Homer 4, Kodiak 0

The Mariners improved to 1-1-0 with the victory.

All of Homer’s goals came in the second period, and three of them came from Makary Reutov.

Cody Thomas, assisted by Reutov and Seamus Hatton started the scoring.

Then Reutov scored three times, once assisted by Kate Moseley, once unassisted and once assisted by Hatton.

Blaze Banks stopped all 38 of the shots he saw for the shutout, while Simon Lonheim saved 17 for Kodiak.

Colony 6, Tri-Valley 1

The Knights received two goals from Aiden Finch in capturing the victory.

Also scoring for Colony were Cody Jorgensen, Issac McKenzie, Ethan McNulty and Jacob Seward-Jenski.

Assists went to Matthew Ross, Gavin Weiz, Luke Holman and Austin Fangmann.

Tess Jorgenson made six saves for Colony, not losing the shutout until 1:10 was left in the game.

Chris Graham, unassisted, ruined the clean sheet. Elijah Graham stopped 40 pucks for Tri-Valley.

Palmer goalie Keagon O'Bryan makes a save against Kenai Central on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, during Kenai River Cup play at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Central's Seanna Swanson scrambles to make a save while Cole Langham and Kylee Verkuilen hold off Palmer's Elijah Von Gunten on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, during Kenai River Cup play at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Central's Mason Vermette celebrates a power-play goal against Palmer on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, during Kenai River Cup play at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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