Soldotna’s Andrew Arthur celebrates his goal against Kenai Central with teammates Marshall Deraeve and Aiden Stinnett on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Andrew Arthur celebrates his goal against Kenai Central with teammates Marshall Deraeve and Aiden Stinnett on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Mese hat trick leads Kenai hockey past Soldotna

Kenai Central’s Logan Mese had three goals and an assist to lead the Kardinals to a 5-3 victory over Soldotna in Northern Lights Conference play Friday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Kenai, playing its first game since Dec. 12, improved to 7-7-1 overall and 3-1 in the league. SoHi, playing for the first time since Dec. 15, drops to 7-5 and 3-3.

The Stars had defeated the Kards 3-0 on Oct. 28.

“We got a lucky win and we got a big win,” Kenai Central coach Scott Shelden said. “I mean, I don’t know if it’s lucky, but SoHi is the better team.

“They had their chances. We’ll take it. We need it.”

Soldotna assistant Dagen Walton, like the rest of the SoHi coaching staff, played his prep hockey at Soldotna, so a loss against the program’s biggest rival especially stings.

At the same time, Walton called hockey the “beautiful game” due to unpredictable results like Friday.

“Kenai, unfortunately, isn’t the deepest team right now,” Walton said. “They rely heavily on a few guys, and those guys came through tonight.”

At the top of that list would be Mese. A little over a minute into the game, he got the Kards started on the right foot with a goal assisted by Cameron Schwin and Sawyer Vann.

When the Stars took a 2-1 lead into the second period, Mese erased that just 43 seconds into the frame with a strike assisted by Avery Martin and William Howard.

Then, with Kenai clinging to a 4-3 lead late in the game, Mese ended things by stealing the puck just outside of the blue line, beating a SoHi defender and then whistling the puck past SoHi goalie Tanner Clyde.

“Unbelievable high school player,” Walton said. “One of the best in the state in my opinion.”

As was on full display Friday, Shelden said Mese’s individual skills are considerable. The coach emphasized it does not stop there.

“He has the full package,” Shelden said. “He’s a great teammate. He works hard in every drill in practice.

“Yeah, he scores and he’s really skilled, but he’s probably our best shot blocker on the team, too.”

Mese was quick to give credit to his teammates after the game, saying he doesn’t feel all the pressure to score because so many can put the puck in the net. The assistant captain also said captain Gavin Liles and assistant captain Martin are a big help.

“All the captains to a really good job of leading by example,” Mese said. “It’s not just me. Everybody does their part.”

Kenai goalie Evyn Witt also had a big game, making 26 saves against SoHi’s high octane attack. Clyde stopped 23 for the Stars.

Shelden said Witt had games of a similar quality last season, but Mese said the goalie took things to a new level.

“That’s the best performance I’ve ever seen out of him,” Mese said. “The confidence in shutting down their leading goal scorers — it’s just insane.”

Soldotna did get rolling a bit in the first period, when Kyler Howell scored unassisted and Jace Appelhans scored with help from Boone Theiler and Payton Williams for a 2-1 lead.

The most decisive stretch of the game was the second half of the second period.

SoHi went on the power play with 8:30 left in the period, but Kenai killed off that penalty and had several great short-handed chances in the process.

“The guys were really just kind of fighting it a little bit tonight,” Walton said. “We had some chances, even on that power play, that I feel like normally would have gone in and for whatever reason didn’t for us tonight.”

Using the momentum from the penalty kill, Toby Petty gave Kenai the lead for good with 6:06 left in the period on helpers from Ethan Tree and Mese.

Just over a minute later, Jacob Wait had Kenai up 4-2 on a Tree assist.

“Sometimes a penalty kill can build momentum if you have success with it,” Shelden said.

In the third period, Kenai was able to make the two-goal lead stand up for most of the period by keeping the puck to the outside on defense and getting the puck deep on offense.

“We’re playing great team hockey right now,” Shelden said. “We’ve got a great vibe in the locker room and on the bench. We had a great week of practice.

“All 42 of our kids are academically eligible, which just speaks to the commitment from one to 42.”

SoHi finally broke through with 2:25 left in the game when Andrew Arthur cut it to 4-3 with help from Daniel Heath.

But Mese once again had the answer.

“These games can sometimes wake you up and light a fire and maybe create momentum,” Walton said. “You learn from the mistakes you make tonight, or the lapses where maybe we could have finished, but didn’t.”

Mese said the key now is for the Kardinals not to let up.

“I think it’s really big for our season,” he said. “It gives us momentum going into this next weekend against Kodiak.

“It’s just really good for our morale.”

Juneau sweeps Homer

Host Juneau-Douglas: Yadaa.at Kale swept Friday and Saturday games in the Northern Lights Conference from Homer, winning 16-0 on Friday and 13-0 on Saturday. The Mariners are 0-7 in the league and 2-9 overall.

Kenai Central’s Logan Mese celebrates his game-clinching goal against Soldotna on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Logan Mese celebrates his game-clinching goal against Soldotna on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Boone Theiler protects the puck from Kenai Central’s Ethan Tree on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Boone Theiler protects the puck from Kenai Central’s Ethan Tree on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Jacob Wait celebrates his goal against Soldotna on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldtotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Jacob Wait celebrates his goal against Soldotna on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldtotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Payton Williams and Kenai Central’s Avery Martin battle for the puck Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Payton Williams and Kenai Central’s Avery Martin battle for the puck Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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