Kenai Central’s stock is rising, but the Kardinals aren’t quite there yet.
The Kenai hockey team fell 6-2 to the Palmer Moose on Friday night and 8-1 to the Wasilla Warriors on Saturday night at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility, dropping the Kards to 1-3 in the North Star Conference and 4-6 overall this year.
Similar to Thursday’s NSC clash with Colony, the hosts stuck with their northern rivals early and didn’t let the game get out of hand. First-year Kenai coach Jacob Newton said Palmer was simply better than Kenai in all the little spots that typically decide games, especially in reaching the puck.
“They were getting us in footraces to the puck,” Newton said. “But we never gave up the fight ‘til the very end.”
Levi Mese and Jordan Knudson scored for Kenai, which was outshot 48-20 by Palmer. David Moore had two goals for the Moose, while Darian Wilson, Noah Kiel and David Scully each posted a two-point night with a goal and assist each.
The Moose pelted Kenai goaltender Josh Tree all night with 48 total shots. Tree stopped 42, while Palmer goalie TJ O’Rourke saved 18 of 20 shots from Kenai.
A Kenai goal by Knudson with 5:43 left in the second period cut Palmer’s lead to 3-2 and helped breathe new life into Kenai’s hopes of winning. After putting pressure on O’Rourke while on a power play, the Kards appeared to have momentum on their side.
Palmer, however, extinguished that momentum with a scoring strike from Ethan Welch with just 27 seconds left in the period.
The visitors effectively iced the game with two third-period goals from David Moore.
“Momentum can be so big for a team like us,” Newton said. “We needed it and we couldn’t find it.”
Wilson opened the scoring midway through the first with a poke-in amid a scrum of players in front of Tree, and Palmer went up 2-0 late in the period when Kiel took a shot on a rebound in the crease.
Kenai received an opportunity to claw some of that back with 2:11 left in the first with a Palmer penalty, but only 12 seconds later, Jakeb O’Brien was called for two penalties at once when he checked a Palmer skater hard into the boards from behind, nullifying the Kenai advantage.
Still, the Kards managed to find a way to score with 1:11 to go when Mese chipped in a shot shortly after a faceoff in Moose territory.
The seven-minute O’Brien penalty allowed Palmer to score on the power play early in the second period when Scully fired off a blast from between the faceoff circles, putting Palmer up 3-1.
Saturday, Wasilla blew open a tight game with a strong finish to the second period, and skated to an 8-1 win. Mese had the goal for Kenai.
The Warriors led 2-1 late in the middle frame, but found the net three times during the final 3:02 of the period to take a 5-1 lead. The Warriors, who blasted 54 shots on net, added three goals in the final period.
Porter Schachle and Alex Engan each scored in the first to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead, but Kenai’s Levi Mese cut Wasilla’s lead in half with 1:13 left in the first period. Engan led Wasilla with four goals in the win. Schachle scored twice. Langston Bouma, Ausytn Bayliffe and Dylan Harbour also scored.
Wasilla finished its three-day tour of the Peninsula 2-1. Kenai was winless in three tries against visiting Valley schools.
Moose 6, Kardinals 2
Palmer 2 2 2 —6
Kenai 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Palmer, Wilson (Scully), 7:40; 2. Palmer, Keil (Wilson), 11:31; 3. Kenai, Mese (Beiser), 13:49. Penalties — Kenai 2 for 7:00; Palmer 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 4. Palmer, Scully (Keil), PP, 2:12; 5. Kenai, Knudson (O’Brien), 9:17; 6. Palmer, Welch (Avezac), 14:33. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Palmer 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 7. Palmer, Moore (Appell), 2:22; 8. Palmer, Moore (Scully), SH, 8:33. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Palmer 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Palmer 19-18-11—48; Kenai 9-5-6—20.
Goalies — Palmer, O’Rourke (20 shots, 18 saves); Kenai, Tree (48 shots, 42 saves).
Warriors 8, Kardinals 1
First period — 1. Wasilla- P. Schachle (C. Schachle) 11:26; 2. Wasilla- Engan (P. Schachle) 5:07; 3. Kenai- Mese (Knudson, O’Brien) 1:43.
Second period — 4. Wasilla- Bouma (Wiltfong, Larson) 3:02; 5. Wasilla- Bayliffe (Wiltfong) 1:20; 6. Wasilla- Engan (Randall) 0:34.
Third period — 7. Wasilla- P. Schachle (unassisted) 14:50; 8. Wasilla- Engan (Masterson) 14:23; 9. Wasilla- Engan (unassisted) 12:01; 10. Wasilla- Harbour (Kovenes) 4:34.