The Kenai Central hockey team defeated Homer 7-0 on Thursday in Northern Lights Conference play at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility.
The Kardinals are 1-0 in the league and 3-5 overall, while the Mariners are 0-1 in the league and 2-3 overall.
Kenai’s Seanna Swanson stopped 16 shots for the second shutout of her high school career, while Blaise Banks stopped 43 pucks for Homer.
Logan Mese had a goal and three assists for the Kardinals, while Avery Martin had two goals and an assist.
Sawyer Vann chipped in a goal and two assists from his defenseman’s position.
Kardinals head coach Scott Shelden said Swanson played well in net, but also credited his whole team for the shutout.
“We played all four lines and six D and didn’t miss a beat with anybody,” he said.
The Kardinals lost all three of their games at the Kenai River Cup from Nov. 16 to 18.
Shelden said since then the Kardinals have been working on getting pucks and bodies to the net.
“Somebody’s got to be open,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be fancy, but we need to get pucks and bodies to the net. And I think good things will happen for us.”
In the first period, Will Howard scored a power-play goal on a Mese and Mason Vermette assist, and Martin scored on a Mese assist.
“He just sets the tone for the whole team,” Shelden said of Mese.
The Kenai coach was particularly pleased with the second period, where Kenai had 26 shots to Homer’s four.
In the second period, Vincent Steen scored on a Braden Smith assist, Mason Vermette scored on a Vann assist and Martin scored a short-handed goal with help from Mese.
In the third period, Mese scored on a Vann helper and Vann scored short-handed on a Martin assist.
In the third, Mese also took a penalty to stop a Homer breakaway.
“Hard backcheck. Diving. Everybody’s like that,” Shelden said. “We have a real good team in that regard.”
Homer coach Steve Nevak has been pleased with the way his team has been improving after the Mariners did not field a team last season.
However, Nevak said Thursday was not a step forward.
“As far as tonight’s game, all the kids agreed we just didn’t show up,” he said. “The kids were frustrated and nothing’s going right. Their attitude went in the dump.
“It’s like a golf game. They couldn’t get out of it.”
After finishing second in Division II state in 2019 and first in 2020, Nevak stepped down as head coach.
The Mariners won state again in 2021 and finished third in 2022 before not fielding a team last season.
Nevak said he and Matt Stineff were asked to coach this season so the team could return, and the duo said yes.
“It’s going good,” Nevak said. “It’s a brand-new group of kids for me that I haven’t coached. We have a mixture of talent and newbies and brand-new skaters, so that’s been a challenge.
“The kids have great attitudes and they want to win just as much as the next person. So it’s gonna be a tough road. We’ve had those conversations in the locker room and they understand.”
Nevak said the Mariners have five or six with previous varsity experience. The roster of 19 also has four brand-new skaters.
Nevak said there have been good signs, like winning two of three at the Kenai River Cup.
“That was a confidence booster, but we understand we’re not going to state this year,” Nevak said. “Any team we’re playing on a conference game, they kind of want to spoil their opportunity.”
Nevak said his players gave player of the game to center Zane Barth and the coach agrees.
“He has a great aggressive, competitive attitude,” Nevak said. “He didn’t start at the beginning of the season. He came in late.
“So that’s a great injection of the aggression that we need.”
Nevak said his team is young, with a couple of seniors, and that the seventh- and eighth-grade classes in Homer have a lot of talent.