PALMER — Soldotna has had a knack for finding themselves playing in overtime during the postseason in recent years. And the Stars nearly found themselves in an extra period on Thursday.
A Homer goal was waved off with 23 seconds in regulation, and SoHi held on for a 2-1 win over the Mariners during the quarterfinal round of the North Star Conference Championships on Thursday at the MTA Events Center in Palmer.
With less than 30 seconds left in the third, and the Mariners skating on the power play with the goalie pulled, Homer nearly came through with the 6-on-4 advantage. With heavy traffic in front of the net, the Mariners appeared to poke the puck in. But after a brief celebration on the Homer bench, the net was said to be knocked free before the puck crossed the line.
Alois Neunzert provided the game-winner for the Stars, scoring at the 9:16 mark of the third period to help the Stars move into the semifinal round where they will face second-seeded Colony on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the MTA Events Center in Palmer.
The Neunzert goal came just about two minutes after Robby Larson flew up the left wing to tie the score at 1. Jace Urban gave SoHi a 1-0 lead with a first-period goal. Billy Yoder made 22 saves in the SoHi win. Hunter Warren stopped 20 shots for Homer in the loss.
Palmer 7, Kenai Central 2
When it comes to Palmer High School athletes, Aaron Christiansen is probably best known for his work on the gridiron. In the fall, the all-state standout helped the Palmer football team advance to the state title game.
But Christiansen is also a regular on ice, and Thursday the senior defenseman enjoyed a career night.
Christiansen bagged a career-high four assists to help the Moose keep their season alive with a 7-2 win over Kenai Central in quarterfinal round of the North Star Conference Championships at the MTA Events Center in Palmer.
“Aaron had a good game tonight. Definitely he was the go-to guy,” Palmer head coach Dean Wilson said after the win.
Christiansen helped set up Palmer’s first goal of the game, two more in the second, and another in the third to help the Moose move into the semifinal round where they will face top-seeded Wasilla Friday at 5 p.m. at the MTA Events Center.
“There were several instances we kept putting him out there,” Wilson said of Christiansen. “Good hands, good vision. He was all over the place.”
Early in the first period, Christiansen won a battle in the neutral zone, and slid the puck up the right side of the ice. Jaron Ketterman, leading a two-on-one rush, jumped on the puck, and set a pass across the zone to Darian Wilson, who went top shelf for Palmer’s first goal of the game. In the second period, Christiansen used his shot from the point to set up two more Moose goals. Midway through the middle frame, Christiansen blasted a shot from the left point which bounced off the back wall right to Chase Rosenberg, who buried the rebound to give Palmer the 3-1 lead.
With just less than four minutes left in the second, and with the Moose on the power play, Christiansen lifted another shot from the point, and David Scully poked the puck by Kenai goalie Ryan Williams to extend Palmer’s lead to 4-2.
In the third, Christiansen recorded his fourth assist of the game on Scully’s second goal of the contest.
Christiansen, a Palmer assistant captain who finished the regular season with a half-dozen helpers, is typically known for leadership and his work on the defensive end of the ice.
“This game was a good one for him. Good vision. Lots of action from the back end today,” Wilson said.
Ketterman and Rosenberg also came through with three assists each for the Moose. All three Ketterman assists came off a two-one-one rush. Darian Wilson was the benefactor on two of those plays, finishing with a pair of goals. Ketterman also set up a Noah Keil short-handed tally late in the second.
Wilson and Scully scored two goals each in the win. Rosenberg, Keil and Nathan Hooks had a goal a piece.
Levi Mese and Nate Beiser scored the Kenai goals. Mese tied the score at 1 with 51 seconds left in the first. Matt Hagel forced a turnover right behind the Palmer net, and sent a quick pass to Mese, who was able to sneak it inside the near-side post. In the second, with the Kards on the power play, Beiser knocked in a rebound of a Brenna Eubank shot from the point.
Palmer outshot Kenai 27-17 in the win. Cody Grogan made 15 saves for the Moose.
Kenai’s season ended with the loss in the single-elimination tournament.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at email@example.com.
Moose 7, Kardinals 2
First period — 1. Palmer- Wilson(Ketterman, Christianson) 13:02; 2. Kenai- Mese (Hagel) 0:51.
Second period — 3. Palmer- Wilson (Ketterman) 14:13; 4. Palmer- Rosenberg (Christianson) 8:40; 5. Kenai- Beiser (Eubank) pp 7:51; 6. Palmer- Scully (Rosenberg, Christianson) 3:57; 7. Palmer- Keil (Ketterman) sh 1:25.
8. Palmer- Hooks (Scully, Rosenberg) 6:21; 9. Palmer- Scully (Rosenberg, Christianson) 4:59.
Shots on goal: Kenai 6-7-4—17, Palmer 10-6-11—27; Saves: Kenai- Williams 9-2-9—20, Palmer- Grogan 5-6-4—15.
Stars 2, Mariners 1
First period — 1. Soldotna- J. Urban (unassisted) 10:44.
Second period — no scoring.
Third period — 2. Soldotna- Neunzert (Daugherty, B. Urban) 9:16; 3. Homer- Larson (Blakely, Kuzmin) 11:15.
Shots on goal: Homer 8-3-12—23, Soldotna 5-9-8—22, Saves: Homer- Warren 4-9-7, Soldotna- Yoder 8-3-11—22.