Kenai Central goalie Tommy Baker makes a save against Soldotna on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central goalie Tommy Baker makes a save against Soldotna on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai hockey tops SoHi

Stars come back with dramatic OT win over Homer

By JEFF HELMINIAK

Peninsula Clarion

A win over rival Soldotna means a lot to Kenai Central, but Friday’s 3-0 triumph at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex now means a little bit more.

Kenai Central head coach Scott Shelden said he received an email from the Alaska School Activities Association on Thursday saying the plan is to put on a state hockey tournament from Feb. 18 to 20 at the Curtis Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.

“It’s as much of a sure thing as there is in this day and age,” Shelden said.

Soldotna head coach Indy Walton also said the Kenai Peninsula School District has given the go-ahead to travel for state.

Soldotna and Homer are the only two teams on Kenai’s regular season schedule, meaning games between the peninsula teams will determine a potential state berth.

Both head coaches do not exactly know how the state teams will be determined, they just know regular season games will be important.

The teams have all been close in the early season. The Kards are now 2-1.

Saturday at the sports complex, the Stars and Mariners played their second overtime contest in two tries this season. Just like the first, Soldotna won in overtime. The Stars are 2-2, while the Mariners are 1-2.

Tuesday, the Kardinals had defeated the Stars and head coach Indy Walton 3-1 in a game that was tied with under nine minutes to play.

“Hats off to SoHi,” Shelden said. “Coach Walton is a great coach and they have some amazing players with great character. I have a lot of respect for them. But somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.”

Shelden also likes his squad.

“There’s been a good vibe from the very beginning,” he said. “Everybody has been working hard, showing up on time and taking care of each other on the ice.”

Tommy Baker got the shutout for the Kards on 17 saves. While Baker was solid, Shelden said like everything that happened Friday night, credit goes to the team.

“They got two shots in the second,” Shelden said. “That’s a great team defensive effort for sure.”

Jacob Begich had the game-winner for the Kards, an unassisted, backhand strike with 5 minutes, 56 seconds, left in the second period.

In the third period, Aiden Milburn, assisted by Begich, and Daniel Shelden, assisted by Landen Cialek, clinched the game in the third.

Just as he did after Tuesday’s game, Walton tipped his cap to Baker.

“Credit to Tommy Baker,” Walton said. “He came up big twice. One goal in two games tells you they have good goaltending.”

Walton said the teams are pretty even, but he said his team’s mistakes led to two of Kenai’s three goals.

“Tommy hasn’t given us those breaks,” he said. “Tommy has definitely been one of the major differences in these two games.”

Baker had 17 saves for Kenai, while Ayden See stopped 23 for SoHi.

Walton said he’s still juggling the lineup, which is normal after a few games, but not normal with a few weeks left in the season.

He said Silas Larsen showed a lot of heart in the contest, while Zeke Miller, Gavin Haakenson, Dylan Walton and Dace Gardner also had good games. Walton added Dylan Dahlgren and Aiden Burcham were good on defense.

But Walton said the real MVPs of the team are the managers and parents helping the team follow all the COVID-19 regulations.

Walton and Shelden also added they continue to be concerned about the effect the district’s policy of wearing masks is having on the players, particularly their vision in the contact sport.

Both coaches pointed out masks are not required by ASAA in hockey. Both said Fairbanks and the Matanuska-Susitna valleys are not wearing masks for hockey.

Shelden said he understands the severity of COVID-19, but he also does not want to see a head or neck injury due to restricted vision.

Soldotna 3, Homer 2, OT

Dahlgren flipped the puck into the back of the net while flying over a sprawling defender with just 5 seconds showing on the clock for the victory.

“It was extra effort,” Walton said. “He was dragging. He got hooked and it probably would have been a penalty shot if he hadn’t scored. He pushed through it and chipped it over the goalie’s shoulder.”

Casey Otis gave Homer a 1-0 lead after the first period. In the second, Silas Larsen and Spencer Kapp scored for the Stars.

“Spencer Kapp played the best game I’ve ever seen him play,” Walton said. “Not only did he shut down the blue line, but he shot the puck and even scored.”

Otis found the net in the third period to send the game to overtime.

Keegan Strong saved 26 for Homer, while Tanner Clyde stopped 19 for the Stars.

“Homer played great,” Walton said. “Kudos to Strong for keeping them in the game like that.”

Walton also was impressed with Homer girls Fiona Hatton and Haylee Owen for their strong play against varsity boys.

“We have four games this week counting JV,” Walton said. “To finish it with a win in overtime is huge for us physically, emotionally and physically. I’m super proud of the players.”

Friday

Kardinals 3, Stars 0

Kenai 0 1 2 —3

Soldotna 0 0 0 —0

First period — none. Penalties — Kenai Central 2 for 4:00.

Second period — 1. Kenai, Begich (un.), 9:04. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 2. Kenai, Milburn (Begich), 12:26; 3. Kenai, Shelden (Cialek), 8:26.

Shots on goal — Kenai 7-9-10—26; Soldotna 7-2-8—17.

Goalies — Kenai, Baker (17 shots, 17 saves); Soldotna, See (26 shots, 23 saves).

Saturday

Stars 3, Mariners 2, OT

Homer 1 0 1 0 —2

Soldotna 0 2 0 1 —3

First period — 1. Homer, Otis (Green), 19:59. Penalties — Homer 2 for 4:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.

Second period — 2. Soldotna, Larsen (Haakenson, Walton), 8:22; 3. Soldotna, Kapp (Howell), 9:29. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 4, Homer, Otis (Allen), 7:16. Penalties — Homer 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 3 for 6:00.

Overtime — 5. Soldotna, Dahlgren (Larsen), 19:55. Penalties — none.

Goalies — Homer, Strong (29 shots, 26 saves); Soldotna, Clyde (21 shots, 19 saves).

Kenai Central’s Gavin Langham defends Soldotna’s Dylan Walton while Kenai goalie Tommy Baker watches Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Gavin Langham defends Soldotna’s Dylan Walton while Kenai goalie Tommy Baker watches Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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