A five-goal outburst from Levi Mese fueled the Kenai Central hockey team to a 10-1 North Star Conference victory over Soldotna on Tuesday night at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility.
For Mese, the high-powered performance was nothing new, since the senior’s prep career contains a handful of hat tricks, but for the Kardinals program, it was a big win over a longtime rival.
“Everybody here has been playing with each other for a long time,” Mese said about the biggest different this year from last.
Mese scored in all situations, two goals on Kenai power plays and one short-handed.
First-year Kenai head coach Jacob Newton said he was most proud of the team effort the Kardinals showed.
“It’s kind of an, ‘All guts, no glory,’ for us,” Newton said. “We’re finally starting to mesh this year, and we stress that it’s more important about the ‘K’ on the front than the name on the back.”
The win puts the Kardinals at 1-0 in the conference and 4-3 overall this year, while SoHi drops to 0-1 and 1-5-1.
When his teammates weren’t busy scoring, Kenai goaltender Josh Tree was doing work with 35 saves on 36 shots. Soldotna goalie McKenzie Powell had 17 saves on 27 shots.
J.D. Schmelzenbach scored SoHi’s lone goal of the night with a top shelf strike early in the second period, cutting the Kenai lead to 5-1 at the time.
While the team aspect is stressed, Mese said it’s only natural to think about the prospects of a hat trick when a skater nets the first two goals.
“It’s about just getting one in the net,” Mese said. “Once you get two, you can think about getting a third.
Mese’s first goal put Kenai up 3-0 midway through the first period on a power-play opportunity for Kenai. Mese was able to get space from the right side and lift a shot over Powell’s shoulder with 1:07 left on the power play.
Mese scored his second just 20 seconds into the second period to put Kenai up 5-0, then completed his hat trick with 8:27 left in the second, poking in a shot on a rush on goal. Mese scored his fourth with 41 ticks left on a power play early in the third period, then finished off the night with a short-handed goal late in the period.
Nate Beiser opened the night with scoring strike 2:49 into the contest, then was joined by Bailey Maxson five minutes later to put the Kards up 2-0. Maxson picked up the puck from the left boards, raced to the net and fired the puck to the top shelf.
Jordan Knudson knocked a goal in after crashing the net to put Kenai up 4-0 with 46 seconds left in the first.
Beiser notched his second goal of the night with a faceoff opportunity in the second period and Zach Burnett scored 37 seconds later for his first of the night.
As lopsided as the final score was, however, Soldotna put 36 shots on goal compared to 27 by Kenai.
Kenai hosts Colony on Nov. 30 while Soldotna hosts Palmer the same day at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Kardinals 10, Stars 1
Soldotna 0 1 0 —1
Kenai 4 4 2 —10
First period — 1. Kenai, Beiser (unassisted), 3:49; 2. Kenai, Maxson (unassisted), 8:58; 3. Kenai, Mese (Every, Hagel), PP, 9:58; 4. Kenai, Knudson (Mese), 14:14. Penalties — Kenai 3 for 6:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 5. Kenai, Mese (Knudson, Hagel), :20; 6. Soldotna, Schmelzenbach (unassisted), 1:29; 7. Kenai, Mese (O’Brien), 6:33; 8. Kenai, Beiser (Burnett, Gabriel), 10:21; 9. Kenai, Burnett (unassisted), 10:58. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 10. Kenai, Mese (Hagel), PP, 2:12; 11. Kenai, Mese (unassisted), SH, 10:34. Penalties — Kenai 4 for 8:00; Soldotna 3 for 6:00.