The Soldotna hockey team skated off the ice following a successful first period of play that saw them leading 2-0 over the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears on Thursday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, but the Stars knew their work was far from done.
As the old saying goes, a two-goal lead in hockey is the most dangerous. Just ask junior forward Corey Hanson.
“I was a little nervous they were going to come back,” Hanson said. “I was a little rattled when they got a goal, I thought were going to lose all momentum.”
Juneau did manage to get on the board at the end of the night, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Stars, who won 4-2.
Hanson scored twice to lead Soldotna while teammate Cameron Knowlton played a role in all four goals, scoring one and assisting on three.
“He’s one of my best friends, we play all the time together,” Hanson said. “Last summer, we played like, 24/7 and coach decided to put us back on a line together, and it’s been good.”
SoHi sophomore Billy Yoder pieced together a solid game as well, stopping 45 of 47 shots by Juneau. Overall, Juneau outshot SoHi 47-19.
Soldotna had not played Juneau in two years, so familiarity was not an advantage. So, when Knowlton opened the scoring with just 59 seconds left in the first frame, the odds immediately shifted in favor of the Stars. SoHi coach Derek Urban said the two late goals in the first period made all the difference.
“That was huge,” Urban said. “It was pretty even before that, and I think the momentum swung.”
SoHi improved to 2-4 with the win, while Juneau dropped to 0-4.
Urban said he stressed to his players to execute a team game, one week after going 1-2 in the Peninsula Ice Challenge. The one shining example of that came in the third period, when Urban took Hanson off the ice when he was searching for a hat trick goal, something that Hanson admitted to later.
“We haven’t had the full team together yet, so getting them to jell as a team, use each other and work on their passes was important,” Urban said. “Our defensive zone coverage was better tonight.”
As the opening period of play was winding down, it looked as if both sides were content to head to the locker rooms without sacrificing a scoring opportunity. The biggest shot came with under four minutes to play when Juneau forward Kasey Watts intercepted the puck and shook off a SoHi defender to find a clean shot on Yoder, but Watts’ attempt clanged off the right post to save a scoreless affair.
However, Cameron Knowlton was perfectly positioned on a Soldotna power play to clean up a loose puck in front of the crease and delivered the first goal of the night to the top shelf of the netting, giving SoHi a lead with 59 seconds left in the period.
Hanson followed close behind with a goal with just 10.7 seconds to go, getting the puck from Knowlton and swooping in from the left faceoff circle before waiting on Juneau goalie Kyle Farley-Robinson to flinch first and depositing the puck with room to spare.
“Cameron definitely played a big part in all my goals,” Hanson said. “I trusted him to chip it out to me, and I booked it down there, that kid missed it, and it went right over (the goalie’s) shoulder.”
A determined SoHi squad added a third goal early in the second frame, and it was persistence that paid off. Only 3:32 into the second period, the Stars began whacking away at the Juneau goal, but it took about four or five whacks on goal before Hanson found the puck on a rebound and hurled it into the netting for a 3-0 SoHi lead.
“Pretty soon, one came right out to me and I put it in there,” Hanson said. “Some kids are fast enough to think about where the puck is, but I don’t think any of those kids were.”
Yoder continued to stand tall in the net, stopping a Juneau breakaway by Watts with 9:13 to go in the second with a lightning-quick save by the pads. Yoder stopped another puck with a pad save barely two minutes later.
Yosef Monsef finally broke through with a goal for Juneau with 3:57 to play in the second, taking advantage of a chaotic crease to slip the puck by Yoder, with assists from Watts and Oscar Jones. The goal closed the deficit to 3-1.
Yoder continued to stay busy in the opening minutes of the third period, but Matthew Daugherty scored to put SoHi up 4-1 with 4:45 to play, getting help from Hanson and Knowlton.
Juneau tallied its second goal with 2:49 to play on a strike by Niko Hebert.
Palmer 3, Homer 3
The Moose and Mariners could not settle a score after 45 minutes of regulation Thursday at the Palmer Hockey Showdown tournament at the MTA Events Center.
Following a scoreless opening period, Homer struck first with a goal by Tim Blakely four minutes, 18 seconds, into the second frame. Dawson Roberts added another goal for Homer with 9:10 to play in the second, but Darren Fish closed the gap on a power-play opportunity with 6:52 to go. Fish then notched an unassisted goal just 21 seconds later to tie things up at two apiece.
Bobby Larson — who has assists on the first two goals — scored a go-ahead strike with 11:08 to play in the third period on a power play, but Chris Dojka saved the game for Palmer with 1:55 to go.