The Soldotna hockey team controlled the opening 15 minutes Saturday against Kenai Central at the Peninsula Ice Challenge, but things soon took a turn.
After getting goals from Corey Hanson, Ethan Brown and Galen Brantley III, Soldotna’s 3-0 lead nearly vanished after Kenai rallied in the second period with strikes from Levi Mese and Jakeb O’Brien.
It all set up for a tense third period, but the Stars were able to put it away for a 5-2 victory, earning them the tournament championship as well. Kenai finished winless for the tournament.
“This is a big confidence boost to start the season,” said SoHi assistant coach Jarrett Urban, who took charge of the postgame pep talk after his father and head coach Derek Urban had to leave for another commitment.
“It’s nice to see what can be done, and it’s always nice to see these young kids contribute.”
After seeing Kenai cut the gap to 3-2, Brown helped SoHi seal the victory with 2 minutes, 30 seconds, left in the third period, collecting the puck amid a scrum and scoring off an assist from Galen Brantley III, who scored Friday night’s game winner.
“(Brantley) got me the puck from behind the net, it was so quick,” Brown said. “He’s not afraid to mix it up, he’s very physical.”
The Kards put several unsuccessful shots on goal before Mese collected the puck and was able to sharp shoot the puck in from a tough angle from the right just before six minutes were up in the second period.
Late in the period, the Stars were charged with a tripping penalty, and it took all of six seconds for O’Brien to find the back netting, cutting the lead to one. Kenai was able to make up the deficit all while being outshot 18-6 in the frame.
For the first 12 minutes of the third, both teams scrounged and scrapped hard, Kenai looking to tie it up and SoHi hoping to hold the Kards off, but multiple shots on goal were denied by Kenai’s Ryan Williams and SoHi’s Billy Yoder.
Finally, Brown broke through, and freshman Parker Lockwood finished the deal with an empty-netter with 1:24 left.
“I thought our kids really held their own well,” said Kenai coach Michael Tilly. “It was a good crosstown rivalry game, everyone’s going to be up for it.”
Tilly added that the second period provided a much-needed boost for Kenai.
“They started to believe, and it was a strong motivating force,” Tilly said. “I think they really proved to the crowd that they can skate with the best of anyone in this conference.”
Homer 4, Houston 1
The Mariners scored a barrage of goals in the final minutes to escape with a Saturday win over the Hawks at the Ice Challenge.
The win helped Homer to finish 2-1 over the weekend.
Houston’s Andrew Natekin scored in the first period to give the Hawks a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish until midway through the second period, when Homer’s Dimitry Kuzmin knotted it up with an assist from Garrett Butcher.
Butcher slotted in the eventual game winner with just 3:23 left in the game, then Woape Huffman put home an insurance goal just over a minute later, when Houston was charging on the offense.
Houston was 1-2 over the weekend.
At Soldotna Regional Sports Complex
Stars 5, Kardinals 2
Kenai 0 2 0 —2
Soldotna 3 0 2 —5
1st period — 1. Soldotna, Hanson (Brantley), 6:48; 2. Soldotna, Brown (Hanson), 8:53; 3. Soldotna, Brantley (Hensley, Neunzert), 9:21. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
2nd period — 4. Kenai, Mese (O’Brien), 5:53; 5. Kenai, O’Brien (Hagel, Mese), 13:20. Penalties — Kenai 2 for 12:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
3rd period — 6. Soldotna, Brown (Brantley), 12:30; 7. Soldotna, Lockwood (Urban), EN, 13:36. Penalties — Kenai 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Shots — Kenai 7-6-5—18; Soldotna 11-18-16—55.
Goalies — Kenai, Williams (55 shots, 50 saves); Soldotna, Yoder (18 shots, 16 saves).
Mariners 4, Hawks 1
Houston 1 0 0 —1
Homer 0 1 3 —4
1st period — 1. Houston, Natekin (Smoldon), 6:36. Penalties — none.
2nd period — 2. Homer, Kuzmin (Butcher), 5:20. Penalties — Houston 2 for 4:00.
3rd period — 3. Homer, Butcher (Kuzmin), 11:37; 4. Homer, Huffman (unassisted), 12:41; 5. Homer, Lowe (Kuzmin), 13:55. Penalties — Houston 1 for 2:00.
Shots — Houston 5-4-7—16; Homer 1-5-7—13.
Goalies — Houston, Nix (13 shots, 9 saves); Homer, Warren (16 shots, 15 saves).