Forget about early season rust. The Soldotna hockey team is in peak form.
SoHi blitzed North Pole 8-0 Friday on the second night of the Peninsula Ice Challenge at the Soldotna Sports Center, dominating every phase of the game to improve to 2-0.
The win, coupled with a 3-1 triumph over Eagle River on Thursday, gives the Stars a tournament-best four points going into Saturday’s 8:45 p.m. finale against Kenai Central.
The Kardinals and Eagle River have two points apiece, while North Pole has zero. Eagle River and North Pole square off at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. All games are at the sports center.
“It’s just impressive. Really, just solid all the way through — every line clicking right along,” SoHi coach Aaron Swanson said of Friday’s performance. “We’re very happy with the effort we had — really nothing to complain about. Hopefully we keep doing that every night.”
Dalton Pearson scored two goals and added two assists, while teammate Max Hegge scored twice and dished three assists.
Also scoring for SoHi were Dagen Walton, Nick Wrobel, Kevin Stone and Josh Kerkvliet, who also had three assists. Michael Erickson added two assists.
What it amounted to was a 3-0 lead after the first period and a 5-0 edge through two, which was more than enough for sophomore goaltender Conner Pearson, who made nine saves.
The Stars manhandled the Patriots from the opening minute as Walton began the scoring about five minutes into the contest on Erickson’s first assist. Three minutes later Hegge found the back of the net on Erickson’s second assist and Dalton Pearson’s first. Kerkvliet then bumped the cushion to 3-0, finishing Hegge and Dalton Pearson assists with 4:19 to play.
SoHi outshot North Pole 17-3 over the first 15 minutes.
“We’ve been preaching that to the kids for a long time already now,” Swanson said of getting pucks to the net. “They hear it from us every day and tonight every line did it.”
The onslaught continued in the second as Dalton Pearson scored twice, including a shorthanded goal with 3:25 remaining.
North Pole yanked starting goalie Allan Heineken after the second. The sophomore made 22 saves on 27 shots.
Dalton Pearson said chemistry was a large reason the Stars were successful on offense.
“Definitely working together, moving the puck more,” he said.
It got even uglier in the final frame, with Stone and Hegge scoring goals on power plays to make it 7-0. Wrobel finished the scoring with a five seconds to play, beating reserve goalie Ian Hancock.
When the final whistle blew, the Stars had 45 shots to the Patriots’ nine.
SoHi should be competitive in the North Star Conference if it maintains this level of play.
“We feel like we can beat teams,” Hegge said. “We don’t have to always beat them 8-0, but if we work together we will come out ahead.”
Now the question is, “How good can SoHi be?”
“The kids raised the bar tonight. We’ve got a new standard of success. And with that, we’ve got something to build on,” Swanson said. “We’ll just try to keep getting better from that.”
Stars 8, Patriots 0
First period — 1. Soldotna, Walton (Erickson), 5:19; 2. Soldotna, Hegge (Erickson, D. Pearson), 8:08; 3. Soldotna, Kerkvliet (Hegge, D. Pearson), 10:41. Penalties — North Pole 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 4. Soldotna, D. Pearson (Kerkvliet, Hegge), pp, 3:04; 5. D. Pearson (Hegge), sh, 11:35. Penalties — North Pole 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 6. Soldotna, Stone (Urban, Kerkvliet), pp, 1:30; 7. Soldotna, Hegge (Kerkvliet, Stone), pp, 13:35; 8. Soldotna, Wrobel (Lott), 14:55. Penalties — North Pole 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — North Pole (3-5-1—9); Soldotna (17-10-18—45).
Goalies — North Pole, Heineken (27 shots, 22 saves), Hancock (18 shots, 15 saves); Soldotna, C. Pearson (9 shots, 9 saves). Penalties — North Pole 3 for 6:00; Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Power plays — North Pole 0 for 5; Soldotna 3 for 5.