The Soldotna hockey team won and Kenai Central lost Thursday at the opening day of the Division II state tournament at the Patty Center in Fairbanks.
The Stars, the No. 3 seed, picked up a 3-2 victory over No. 6 Monroe Catholic, while the No. 5 Kardinals lost 7-4 to No. 4 Juneau-Douglas.
Today, the Stars face the winner of No. 2 Palmer — 4-3 winners over No. 7 North Pole — at 7:30 p.m. for a spot in the championship. Kenai faces No. 8 Delta, which lost 8-0 to No. 1 Houston on Thursday, for a spot in the fourth-sixth place game.
Soldotna 3, Monroe Catholic 2
Jace Appelhans scored his second goal of the game with 58 seconds left to provide the difference for the Stars.
“It was just a scrum, we were trying to put the thing on net,” Soldotna head coach Anthony Zurfluh said. “Jace was in a nice, soft area, it popped out, and he put it home.”
Silas Larsen assisted on both of the Appelhans goals. In a Jan. 27 game against Kenai Central, Larsen took a hit on the open ice and was eventually taken from the ice on a stretcher, then to Central Peninsula Hospital.
Larsen returned for the Stars, but in the third period he sprained his ankle and hobbled off the ice. He then returned to the ice for the game-winning assist.
Zurfluh said Larsen did not look back to full speed, but gave the senior credit for getting back out there.
“He doesn’t have too many of these games left,” Zurfluh said. “It’s his time to empty the tank.”
The Stars got off to a slow start, with four penalties in the first period. Appelhans, assisted by Larsen and Boone Theiler, put Soldotna up 1-0 with 4:23 left in the first period with a four-on-four goal.
Miles Fowler tied it up for Monroe in the second period with a power-play goal after the Stars were whistled for a five-minute major.
“This was a huge win for us,” Zurfluh said. “Monroe really brought it. No. 10 (Fowler) could really fly. We kind of knew it due to scouting.”
The SoHi coach said the difference in the game ended up being the Gehret Medcoff-Marshall Deraeve-Daniel Heath line.
“They came up with just one goal, but they were the difference makers with their legs and brains,” Zurfluh said. “Those guys were on fire.”
The Soldotna coach said Medcoff had four breakaways in the game. With 14:00 left in the game, he scored on a Heath assist to put the Stars up 2-1.
Ryan Pagel then scored for Monroe with 8:20 left to set up Appelhans’ game-winner.
Jackson Purcell saved 16 for Soldotna, while Dominick Snyder saved 23 for Monroe.
“Jackson Purcell made the saves we needed and played a heck of a game,” Zurfluh said.
Zurfluh gave his team credit for battling through all the penalties and battling through getting a few goals called off.
“Everybody played well, it was just a few names that stood out,” he said.
Juneau-Douglas 7, Kenai Central 4
The Crimson Bears were able to overcome a hat trick by Kenai’s Logan Mese.
Juneau scored just 10 seconds into the game when Dylan Sowa found the net with help from Karter Kohlhase.
In just three minutes, Kenai had it tied when Sawyer Vann scored on Mese and Landen Cialek assists.
The Crimson Bears then scored four unanswered goals to take control of the game.
Before the end of the first, Branden West scored on Emilio Holbrook and Matthew Plang assists, Luke Bovitz scored unassisted, and Kohlhase scored on a Cam Kovach assist.
In the second period, Holbrook scored unassisted for a 5-1 lead.
With 4:59 left, Mese scored unassisted for Kenai. Then with 15 seconds left in the second, Mese, assisted by Vann, cut it to 5-3.
Juneau retook control of the game with the next two goals of the game. Kohlhase scored on a Harris Monsef assist and Caden Johns scored on a Bovitz assist.
With 2:27 left in the game, Mese completed his hat trick on an assist from Ky Calvert.
Mason Sooter had 27 saves to record the victory for Juneau. For Kenai, Seanna Swanson made 10 saves on 14 shots, and Evyn Witt made 19 saves on 22 shots.
Crimson Bears 7, Kardinals 4
Kenai 1 2 1 —4
Juneau 4 1 2 —7
First period — 1. Juneau, Sowa (Kohlhase), 0:10; 2. Kenai, Vann (Mese, Cialek), 3:10; 3. Juneau, West (Holbrook, Plang), 3:35; 4. Juneau, Bovitz (un.), 6:30; 5. Juneau, Kohlhase (Kovach), sh, 10:12. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Juneau 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 6. Juneau, Holbrook (un.), 9:07; 7. Kenai, Mese (un.), 10:01; 8. Kenai, Mese (Vann), 14:45. Penalties — Kenai 2 for 4:00; Juneau 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 9. Juneau, Kohlhase (Monsef), 5:42; 10. Juneau, Johns (Bovitz), 8:14; 11. Kenai, Mese (Calvert), 12:33. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Juneau 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai 6-14-11—31; Juneau 14-8-14—36.
Goalies — Kenai, Swanson (14 shots, 10 saves), Witt (22 shots, 19 saves); Juneau, Sooter (31 shots, 27 saves).
Stars 3, Rams 2
Monroe 0 1 1 —2
Soldotna 1 0 2 —3
First period — 1. Soldotna, Appelhans (Larsen, Theiler), 10:37. Penalties — Monroe 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 4 for 8:00.
Second period — 2. Monroe, Fowler (un.), pp, 9:44. Penalties — Monroe 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 3. Soldotna, Medcoff (Heath), 1:00; 4. Monroe, Pagel (un.), 6:40; 5. Soldotna, Appelhans (Larsen), 14:02. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Monroe 6-8-4—18; Soldotna 7-11-8—26.
Goalies — Monroe, Snyder (26 shots, 23 saves); Soldotna, Purcell (18 shots, 16 saves).