How many shots does it take to score on the Wasilla hockey team? Instead of inquiring with the wise old owl, ask the Soldotna Stars.
The Stars tested the Warriors defense Thursday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex with 43 shots on goal, but could not beat Wasilla goalie Zach Curry, who handed SoHi a 3-0 loss in Northern Lights Conference play.
“We had our chances, just couldn’t finish them,” said Soldotna coach Derek Urban. “The bounces weren’t going our way.”
The Stars drop to 4-6-0 with the loss (0-1 in conference play), and Wasilla improved to 4-5-0 with the win (1-1 in conference).
Senior forward Larsen Tubbs scored twice and Curry preserved the 43-save shutout — his first of his prep varsity career — to lift the Warriors to the win, one in which SoHi simply could not manage to score despite numerous high-quality chances.
“Any time you can (shut a team out) is good,” said Wasilla coach Trent Schachle. “Zach was great in net tonight and that’s what we expect of him.”
Thursday was the first of a three-day weekend series of games played between the visiting Valley teams (Wasilla, Colony and Palmer) and the Peninsula teams (Soldotna, Kenai Central and Homer).
After a first-period goal by Tubbs before five minutes were up opened the scoring for Wasilla, SoHi began pressing harder and harder. Tubbs scored after winning a battle for the puck with a Stars defender, then sending in the top-shelf shot from about 10 feet out.
The second period saw a wild display of high-powered offense and spectacular saves. Wasilla recorded a crucial penalty kill in the early minutes of the period, then had to endure over six minutes of penalty kill in the middle stages of the frame. A normal, two-minute power play for Soldotna was then extended to a 5-on-3 man advantage after a major was committed by the Warriors.
Ultimately, Wasilla spent a total of 6 minutes, 16 seconds, trying to kill off the penalties, and as soon as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard, the Warriors struck fast, getting a goal by Tubbs with 1:45 to play in the frame. Tubbs was in perfect position to catch a rebound off SoHi goalie Billy Yoder in the crease and bump the Wasilla lead to 2-0. Yoder ended the night stopping 20 of 23 shots.
“That was definitely the turning point for us,” Urban said. “We were looking good and getting pucks to the net, and then they scored.”
With 9:14 to play in the third period, it looked as if SoHi finally had its long-overdue goal, but the shot from Levi Hensley was waived off for a whistle blown before the puck went in. Barely two minutes later, a rebound off the pads of Curry landed just in front of the Wasilla crease, where SoHi forward Ethan Brown was unmarked, but Brown could not slow his momentum enough to get a handle on the puck, which Curry quickly covered up to save the goal.
Garrett Conroy scored for Wasilla with under five minutes to play to ice the game.
Wasilla will take on Kenai Friday at 1:45 p.m., while SoHi will face Palmer at 4 p.m.
Colony 5, Kenai 1
The Knights opened up their three-day weekend Thursday with a Northern Lights Conference win over the Kardinals at the Soldotna Sports Complex.
Tyler Shetinsky scored the opening goal for Colony and added two assists to lead the Knights. Kolten Ketchum, Bradley Amato, Jake Hessinger and Dayne Cole each scored as well for Colony, which boosted its season mark to 4-3-0 overall.
Levi Mese scored the lone goal for Kenai.
“We played darn well,” said Kenai coach Michael Tilly. “I wasn’t disappointed at all tonight.”
Joey Diltz saved 20 of 21 shots on goal for Colony, while Ryan Williams stopped 25 of 30 shots for Kenai.
Colony coach Jamie Smith said with such an important weekend ahead for the six conference teams, he employed several younger players that haven’t seen much varsity time on ice, which resulted in much-needed experience which he hopes will pay dividends.
“We have a lot of younger guys, and they came up big for us,” Smith said. “The conference is tight, and when it comes to the season-ending tournament, anything can happen.”
Kenai opened the game with a rather even first period of play, matching Colony in intensity and battles for the puck, but 8:33 into the game, Shetinsky received the puck from teammate Wyatt Vrana behind the net, and shoveled in the opening goal.
Kenai came tantalizingly close to equalizing just over two minutes later, but a perfectly timed pass from Jacob O’Brien that hit Ian Mercado in stride glanced off the right post. Ketchum put Colony ahead 2-0 with 2:38 to play in the first period on a long range shot that slipped by Williams.
Amato’s score came 4:06 into the second period of play, putting the Knights ahead by three, but Kenai finally found its moment with 4:16 to go in the frame. A Kenai attack by Matt Hagel and a Colony defender left the puck sitting in the crease, directly in front of Diltz, who was not fast enough to cover it before Mese lifted it into the net for a Kardinals goal.
The momentum would not last, however, as Colony struck on two power-play goals in the third period, one coming just 24 seconds into the man-advantage by Hessinger, and the other on a 5-on-3 power play by Cole. Both goals came on shots from the left faceoff circle, which proved to be a weakness for Kenai.
“We had a couple shifts that saw a change in energy, and when we got scored on, a few of them get frustrated, they get emotional and they commit silly penalties,” Tilly said about having to deal with late penalty kills. “The good thing is mistakes that we had tonight can be fixed at this level of hockey.”
Colony will play Homer Friday night at 7 p.m., while Kenai faces Wasilla at 1:45 p.m.
Palmer 4, Homer 1
The visiting Moose defeated the Mariners on Thursday night to give the Valley teams a perfect sweep on the first day of a three-day rotation.
After scoring early to go up 1-0 in the first period, Palmer added two more goal in the second period and one in the third to ice the game. Tim Blakely scored for Homer in the third period.