Friday’s result against the perennially strong Dimond Lynx might have already been decided by the fates when Soldotna goaltender Corbin Wirz asked head coach Indy Walton to man the goal pipes for that particular game.
With an intent to showcase their improvement, the Stars played the role of the biblical David on Friday as they toppled Goliath in a 5-4 win over the Dimond Lynx at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Braxton Urban netted the game-winner with just 1 minute, 53 seconds, left on the clock to send the Stars to the win, and Wirz stood tall in goal by knocking away 36 of 40 shots from the Lynx.
“I always do better against stronger competition,” Wirz said.
The Stars kept the momentum going Saturday even in a 2-1 loss to the West Eagles. As close as it was against another Anchorage powerhouse, Walton praised his players for stepping up in against a series of tough opponents. SoHi finished the weekend 1-2, all against nonconference opponents from Anchorage, and are 3-16-2 overall this year.
“We’ve been building up to this,” Walton said Saturday. “All year long, we’ve come together, we’ve been playing our system.”
In Friday’s upset over Dimond, SoHi took a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Alex Montague and freshman Gavin Haakenson, the latter of whom notched his first career varsity goal off an assist from fellow frosh Dylan Walton.
The Stars then took a commanding 4-1 lead in the second period with goals from Galen Brantley III and David Aley just 55 seconds apart, forcing Dimond to pull starting goaltender Gabi Gibson for backup Matt Driskell.
Lynx skater Gavan Hardy cut the lead to 4-3 with 6:04 left in the game, then the Lynx tied it with 3:29 to play on a strike from Jaiden Gibson. After being outshot 10-9 in the first period, Dimond dominated the final two periods with a 31-8 shots advantage.
However, SoHi saved the best for last, as Urban lifted the puck from the slot to put the Stars ahead for good.
Walton said he changed up the team’s offense and reshuffled the front lines, which proved to be a difference maker. In eight of SoHi’s losses this year, the Stars led the shots-on-goal tally, forcing Walton to think up another strategy.
“We shuffled some guys around, and also changed up our defensive strategy,” Walton said.
The Saturday loss marked the second time this season that Soldotna has played a brutal stretch of seven games in 10 days.
After a scoreless first period, West struck first 4:39 into the second frame with a goal from Revy Mack, then added another to grab a 2-0 lead.
But, as Walton pointed out, a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey.
“We talked about that in the second intermission,” he said. “That’s where they were.”
The curse almost proved true as Galen Brantley III scored just 46 seconds into the third period, sweeping up a loose puck in the corner of the crease to halve the deficit.
However, the remaining 14 minutes proved fruitless for both teams, as the Stars came up short on several opportunities, including a power-play attempt in which SoHi called timeout with 1:12 left.
West outshot SoHi 35-9 overall in the game.
Dimond 6, Kenai 2
For a second straight day, the Lynx were staring down a deficit and another potential loss, but rallied to notch a win Saturday afternoon at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility.
Fresh off an overtime victory Friday over East Anchorage, Kenai’s Saturday loss dropped the Kards to 7-13 overall this season.
Kenai tender Josh Tree stopped 54 shots in goal. Dimond outshot Kenai 60-21 overall.
Kenai led 2-1 in the second period thanks to a goal by Nate Beiser, who caught a steal of the puck and skated away on a breakaway to break a 1-all tie with Dimond.
However, the Lynx, the second-place team from Anchorage’s Cook Inlet Conference at 16-4 overall this year, finally found its groove late in the second period, getting a game-tying goal from Jaiden Gibson with 2:54 left in the frame.
It only took 11 seconds for Dimond to take a 4-2 lead early in the third period after goals from Dawson Thompson and Blake Hausinger. Thompson’s go-ahead strike began in traffic in front of the Kenai net and ended with the Dimond skater popping the puck in.
Kardinals head coach Jacob Newton praised his squad for the three-day showing against Anchorage foes, culminating in a 1-2 weekend record.
“Anytime your kids can beat a good team, one of the bigger schools, it’s huge,” Newton said. “I’m really proud of how the kids played, they worked their butts off all weekend.”
Kenai 5, East 4, OT
Levi Mese scored the game-winning goal in overtime to send the Kardinals to a Friday night win over the Thunderbirds at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility, breaking a five-game losing skid.
Mese finished with two goals and three assists on the night, while Matt Hagel added two goals and Nate Beiser had one.
“We capitalized when we needed it most,” Newton said.
East Anchorage had taken a 4-2 lead in the second period, but Kenai rallied back in the third, starting with a scoring strike from Hagel with 8:25 left. Hagel then tied it up with 7:01 remaining on an assist from Mese.
In the eight-minute overtime period, Hagel fed Mese with a backdoor shot that struck paydirt with 3:09 left.
Josh Tree stopped 47 shots to secure the win in goal for Kenai.
Homer 4, West 3
The Mariners got back to winning Friday with a victory over West Anchorage.
Homer lost 4-3 to Dimond on Thursday, but returned Friday with a vengeance. Homer scored twice in the first period to take an early lead, then watched as the Eagles scored three times in the second to tie it at 3 apiece.
Dimitry Kuzmin put Homer ahead for good with a goal in the third period.
Homer 10, East 1
Homer wrapped up the weekend with a dominating victory Saturday over the Thunderbirds, moving the Mariners’ overall season mark to 16-5.
Homer led 2-1 after the first period, then went wild with three goals in the second period and five in the final 15 minutes.
Stars 5, Lynx 4
Dimond 0 2 2 —4
Soldotna 2 2 1 —5
First period — 1. Soldotna, Montague (Haakenson), 9:44; 2. Soldotna, Haakenson (Walton, Urban), 12:13. Penalties — Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Dimond 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Dimond, Hickel (Hall), 1:52; 4. Soldotna, Brantley (Medcoff, Skolnick), 2:57; 5. Soldotna, Aley (Montague), 3:52; 6. Dimond, Hickel (Hall), 13:34. Penalties — none.
Third period — 7. Dimond, Hardy (Hausinger, Gibson), 8:56; 8. Dimond, Gibson (Hausinger, Graeber), 11:31; 9. Soldotna, Urban (Kline), 13:07. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Dimond 9-19-12—40; Soldotna 10-7-1—18.
Goalies — Dimond, Gibson (14 shots, 10 saves), Driskell (4 shots, 3 saves); Soldotna, Wirz (40 shots, 36 saves).
Kardinals 5, Eagles 4, OT
West 1 3 0 0 —4
Kenai 1 1 2 1 —5
First period — 1. West, Ament (Eddens, Wyatt), 1:19; 2. Kenai, Beiser (Mese), 1:47. Penalties — West 2 for 12:00; Kenai 5 for 18:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai, Mese (unassisted), 4:36; 4. West, Eddens (Olnes, Oja), 9:07; 5. West, Solberg (Eddens, Ament), 9:18; 6. West, Ament (Solberg, Oja), 14:15. Penalties — West 2 for 4:00; Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 7. Kenai, Hagel (Mese), 6:35; 8. Kenai, Hagel (Mese), 7:59. Penalties — West 1 for 2:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — 9. Kenai, Mese (Hagel), 4:51. Penalties — West 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — West 20-12-13-6—51; Kenai 10-12-21-5—48.
Goalies — West, Fox (48 shots, 43 saves); Kenai, Tree (51 shots, 47 saves).
Eagles 2, Stars 1
West 0 2 0 —2
Soldotna 0 0 1 —1
First period — no scoring. Penalties — none.
Second period — 1. West, Mack (Welch, Pickett), 4:39; 2. West, Pickett (Opinsky), 7:41. Penalties — West 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 3. Soldotna, Brantley (unassisted), :46. Penalties — West 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 3:00.
Shots on goal — West 0-18-17—35; Soldotna 0-3-6—9.
Goalies — West, Miller (9 shots, 8 saves); Soldotna, Wirz (35 shots, 33 saves).
Lynx 6, Kardinals 2
Dimond 1 1 4 —6
Kenai 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Dimond, Flaherty (Driskell), 4:49; 2. Kenai, Mese (Hagel), 9:55. Penalties — Dimond 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai, Beiser (unassisted), 3:51; 4. Dimond, Gibson (Reid, O’Hara), 12:06. Penalties — Dimond 1 for 2:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Dimond, Thompson (unassisted), 2:06; 6. Dimond, Hausinger (Hardy, Gibson), 2:17; 7. Dimond, Anaruk (Miknich), 11:14; 8. Dimond, Hausinger (Hardy, Gibson), 14:37. Penalties — Dimond 2 for 4:00; Kenai 5 for 10:00.
Shots on goal — Dimond 21-20-19—60; Kenai 8-9-4—21.