A slow start cost the Homer hockey team in a 4-2 loss to South to start the Division I state hockey tournament at the Curtis Menard Sports Center in Wasilla.
“We played really well the last half of the game,” Homer coach Steve Nevak said. “The first half of the game, we just weren’t clicking on anything. It was brutal.
“I think we proved that if we play a good game, we can hang with the best of them.”
Homer, the No. 6 seed, was outshot 15-1 in the first period by No. 3 seed South, but goalie Keegan Strong kept the Mariners in the game. The only goal he allowed in the first was a strike by Jack Kleven, assisted by Kaleb Beloy.
In the first 3 minutes, 3 seconds, of the second period, Homer gave up short-handed goals to Beloy and Lucas Wilcox to go down 3-0.
“You can’t give up two short-handed goals and expect to win,” Nevak said.
Then the comeback began.
“The second half of the game, we got back to our style of game — getting the puck below the goal line,” Nevak said. “We scored both goals getting back to our style of play, but it wasn’t enough.”
With 6:38 left in the second quarter, Kazden Stineff, assisted by Tyler Gilliland, cut the lead to 3-1. Then, with 13:38 left in the game, Alden Ross scored unassisted to cut the gap to one.
“Alden Ross played a great game,” Nevak said. “We were short one guy because he stayed home sick. (Ross) played center on two lines and that he was able to play the whole game like that was pretty impressive.”
With 33 seconds left, Hayden Fox hit the empty net for South to end the drama.
Strong ended up with 33 saves for the Mariners, while Hannah Hogenson had 10 saves for the Wolverines.
Today, Homer plays No. 2 seed Dimond at 2:30 p.m. in the consolation bracket. Dimond was upset 3-2 by No. 7 Colony in overtime.
“That’s our goal now, to finish our season strong,” Nevak said. “Play like we have all year.”
Wolverines 4, Mariners 2
Homer 0 1 1 —2
South 1 2 1 —4
First period — 1. South, Kleven (Beloy), 0:34. Penalties — South 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. South, Beloy (Gerken), 2:33; 3. South, Wilcox (Fox), 3:03; 4. Homer, Stineff (Gilliland), 8:22. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00; South 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 5. Homer, Ross (un.), 1:22; 6. South, Fox (un.), 14:27. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Homer 1-6-5—12; South 15-13-9—37.
Goalies — Homer, Strong (37 shots, 33 saves); South, Hogenson (12 shots, 10 saves).