The home ice at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex held up Friday night in a hotly contested battle between the Palmer Moose and Soldotna Stars hockey squads.
After 45 intense minutes of play, Palmer left the rink with a 3-2 Northern Lights Conference victory over SoHi after trailing by two goals.
Noah Richards scored twice for Palmer — the second goal an empty-netter — and goalie Cody Grogan stopped 22 of 24 shots on net to preserve the win. Bowen Webb scored the tying goal midway through the second period and Taylor Foster tallied the gamewinner with 9 minutes, 24 seconds, left in the game.
“The kids didn’t stop, they just kept working hard,” said Palmer assistant coach Tim Popowski. “Their efforts paid off.”
Jace Urban and Cameron Knowlton scored for Soldotna, while Stars goalie Billy Yoder saved 36 of 39 shots in another inspiring performance in net.
It was clear by the dying minutes of the first period that the two teams were playing for more than just the win itself. After Urban scored the opening goal with just under four minutes to play — receiving a nifty pass from teammate Knowlton behind the net to chip it in — SoHi soon found itself on a 5-on-3 power play after a brief confrontation between the Stars and Moose landed two Palmer players in the sin bin.
In the ensuing two minutes, the Moose managed to hang on and kill of the penalty, but tempers were heating up.
“Anything from the Valley is kind of expected,” said SoHi assistant coach Chad Longfellow. “Just keeping the kids focused is the biggest thing, not just letting them wander, letting them see this gong show.”
Palmer ended with 12 total penalties for the game, while Soldotna was charged with 10.
Knowlton took an assist from Levi Hensley, then won the puck battle with a Palmer defender and stuck the shot in the top the netting to open up a 2-0 lead for SoHi 87 seconds into the second period.
After the strong play early by SoHi, the tide began to turn. Following the first period in which Soldotna outshot Palmer 11-9, the Moose turned up the pressure by outshooting SoHi 14-8 in the second period and 17-5 in the third. Palmer also enjoyed a brief 5-on-3 power play at one point.
“It took a little while, but about halfway through the second period, they kind of stopped worrying about the calls that were being made and focused in on the game,” Popowski said. “It was momentum, and after we got that first goal they carried that momentum.”
Popowski said he made a few adjustments by moving some of the players around in efforts to close the gap, including Josh Meyers up to the front offensive line. The changes paid off, as Palmer slipped in its first goal of the night with 10:18 to go in the second frame. Richards blasted home a long range shot with six seconds left on the 5-on-3 power play to close the deficit.
Webb’s goal just 1:22 later was taken on a rebound off the pads of Yoder, who blocked the initial shot but couldn’t close the gap between him and the right post, missing Webb’s attempt on a tough angle.
Longfellow said once Palmer scored and began forcing more shots on net, the mental edge of the Stars quickly began to disappear.
“We were a little undisciplined,” Longfellow said. “We were out of position at times, out of sync, a couple of miscues, and just not being ready.”
With 9:24 to go in the third period, Dietz took the puck after Palmer won a faceoff in the SoHi zone and sent it flying towards Yoder, who blocked the shot but, again, missed the rebound opportunity by Foster, who notched the go-ahead goal.
Yoder was pulled with 30 seconds left in the game, which helped as Knowlton was able to win the puck and nearly tie things up with 16 seconds left. However, after Grogan caught the puck to stop play, Palmer won the ensuing faceoff and Richards blasted the puck nearly the full length of the ice to nail the coffin with an empty netter.
Wasilla 12, Kenai 0
Wasilla freshman Porter Schachle scored four times, a trio of goalies combined for the shutout and the visiting Warriors routed Kenai Central for a Northern Lights Conference victory Friday afternoon at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
In addition to Schachle’s four goals, junior forwards Garrett Conroy and Alex Clark both notched hat tricks for Wasilla.
In goal, senior Zach Curry started in net and stopped three shots in the first period, sophomore Brian Bess warded off seven shots in the second period, and sophomore Sean Carney finished the game with a shot blocked in the third period.
Ryan Williams saved 33 of 45 shots in goal for the Kards.
With the win, Wasilla improved to 5-5 overall and 2-1 in the conference. Wasilla coach Trent Schachle praised his team for efficient play but also stressed after the game that his intent was not to run the score up.
“The kids still want to play, and I don’t fault them for working hard,” Schachle said. “It’s a tough situation.”
Porter Schachle began the offensive onslaught just 1:48 into the game to score the first of his four goals, then added another just past the six-minute mark. Braden Brunnhoelzl scored late in the period, juking between two Kenai defenders to slot in the goal and give Wasilla a 3-0 lead at the first intermission.
Clark tallied his first goal of the day 9:49 into the second period, intercepting the puck as a Kenai power play was finishing up and beating out a Kenai defender to score on a 1-on-1 breakaway against Williams.
A five-minute major called on Kenai only made matters worse for the Kards, as Schachle notched goals three and four in a 13-second span late in the second period.
“We had a five-minute power play there and scored a couple goals, so we were playing very well,” coach Schachle said.
Conroy tallied his three goals in a span of 3:24 in the third period, and Wasilla finished off the game with a trio of quick goals by Christian Rivas and Clark in a 34-second span.
Moose 4, Stars 2
Palmer 0 2 2 —4
Soldotna 1 1 0 —2
1st period — 1. Soldotna, Urban (Knowlton), 11:02. Penalties — Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Palmer 6 for 12:00.
2nd period — 2. Soldotna, Knowlton (Hensley), 1:27; 3. Palmer, Richards (Meyers, Fish), pp, 4:42; 4. Palmer, Webb (Savel), 6:04. Penalties — Soldotna 6 for 12:00; Palmer 5 for 10:00.
3rd period — 5. Palmer, Foster (Dietz), 5:36; 6. Palmer, Richards (unassisted), 14:49. Penalties — Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Palmer 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Soldotna 11-8-5—24; Palmer 9-14-17—40.
Goalies — Soldotna, Yoder (39 shots, 36 saves); Palmer, Grogan (24 shots, 22 saves).
Warriors 12, Kardinals 0
Wasilla 3 3 6 —12
Kenai 0 0 0 —0
1st period — 1. Wasilla, Schachle (Conroy, Trush), 1:48; 2. Wasilla, Schachle (unassisted), 6:07; 3. Wasilla, Brunnhoelzl (Sinyawski), 12:34. Penalties — Kenai, 1 for 10:00.
2nd period — 4. Wasilla, Clark (unassisted), 9:49; 5. Wasilla, Schachle (Holohan), 13:07; 6. Wasilla, Schachle (unassisted), 13:20. Penalties — Wasilla 1 for 2:00; Kenai 2 for 10:00.
3rd period — 7. Wasilla, Conroy (unassisted), 3:25; 8. Wasilla, Conroy (Clark, Moore), 4:14; 9. Wasilla, Conroy (Clark, Engan), 6:48; 10. Wasilla, Rivas (D. Matson), 8:41; 11. Wasilla, Clark (Moore), 8:54; 12. Wasilla, Clark (Brunnhoelzl, Bayliffe), 9:15. Penalties — Wasilla 2 for 4:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai 3-7-1—11; Wasilla 9-18-18—45.
Goalies — Kenai, Williams (45 shots, 33 saves); Wasilla, Curry (3 shots, 3 saves), Bess (7 shots, 7 saves), Carney (1 shots, 1 save).
Power plays — Kenai 0 for 3; Wasilla 0 for 4.