PALMER —When on the road, it’s always great to get the first goal. It’s even better when that goal comes seconds into regulation.
Josh Kerkvliet scored 15 seconds into the first period to spark Soldotna and lead the Stars to a key 4-2 North Star Conference win over the Palmer Moose at the MTA Events Center in Palmer on Thursday.
Kerkvliet also notched the hat trick and SoHi goalie Cody Harvey made 33 saves to help first-place Soldotna beat the Moose and improve to 5-1-0 in conference play this season.
“The conference is so tight. Anybody playing can win or lose,” Soldotna head coach Aaron Swanson said after the win. “Points are precious for sure. I’m happy to get the win.”
The victory keeps Soldotna in the race for the top seed in the upcoming NSC tournament. That race continues tonight when the Stars face Colony, the only NSC team to beat Soldotna this season.
Kerkvliet scored two of his goals in the first period. His first came off the opening draw. Max Hegge set up the play as the Stars rushed into the Moose defensive zone.
“He’s a goal scorer. He just buried the thing for us,” Swanson said.
Palmer senior captain Ivan Good scored midway through the first to tie the game at 1. The Moose cashed in on a Stars turnover in their own zone. Jack Reeves picked up the puck between the circles, and fired a shot on net. Harvey let the rebound free, and Good skated in to crash and score.
“I was really happy to get that quick start, but it didn’t take long for Palmer to get right back in it,” Swanson said. “They got their chances. I was happy to weather the storm as well.”
Good scored at the 8:33 mark to knot the score. But Kervkliet needed less than a minute to answer back. The senior cashed in on a 2-on-0 rush to give the Stars a 2-0 lead.
Dalton Pearson led the rush for Soldotna, skating up the left side, and sent a quick shot over to Kerkvleit, who found the back of the net.
Soldotna pushed its lead to a pair of goals early in the second period with a Hegge power-play goal, but Palmer was able to cut into that lead again.
Miles George sent a centering pass from the right wing corner to set up a Dalton Buness score with 2:12 left in the second. The Moose outshot Soldotna 35-31 in the loss, but Harvey was able to blank the Moose during the third period.
“Harvey made a bunch of great saves for us, for sure,” Swanson said. “They had several A-plus chances, and he took care of them.”
Kerkvliet added an empty-netter to complete his hat trick with 24 seconds left in the third.
The Stars will meet the Knights, who beat Homer 2-0 Thursday, tonight at 7 p.m. the Curtis C. Menard II Memorial Ice Arena in Wasilla. Palmer hosts Kenai at 7 p.m. at the MTA Events Center.
Soldotna 4, Palmer 2
Thursday, MTA Events Center
First period — 1. Soldotna- Kerkvliet (Hegge, Pearson) 14:45; 2. Palmer- I. Good (Reeves) 8:33; 3. Soldotna- Kerkvliet (Pearson, Hegge) 7:40.
Second period – 4. Soldotna- Hegge (Urban) pp 13:40; 5. Palmer- Buness (George) 2:12.
Third period — 6. Soldotna- Kerkvliet (Urban) en 0:24.
Shots on goal: Soldotna 31, Palmer 35; Saves: Soldotna- Harvey 33, Palmer- A. Good 31.
Kenai 2, Wasilla 0
The Kenai Central boys hockey team defeated the Wasilla Warriors on Thursday night at Wasilla.
The game was scoreless up until 9:01 in the third period, as sophomore Trevor Wagoner scored with an assist from senior Russell Dukowitz. Another goal at 13:16 on a power play put Kenai up for good. Jake Eubank managed to get the score with an assist from Zack Zulkanycz and Zack Mese.
Senior goalie Keegan Remsen had 40 saves on the night to shut out Wasilla.
“He did a spectacular job tonight,” said Kenai head coach Pete Iverson. “Both Keegan and Trevor had great games.”
Wasilla managed to save eight of 10 shots on goal.
Colony 2, Homer 0
WASILLA — The third line sparked Colony, as the Knights earned a key North Star Conference win Thursday night.
Forward Anthony Kolendo scored in the second period to snap a scoreless tie, and help Colony grab a win over Homer at the Brett Memorial Ice Arena in Wasilla.
“It was a big win for us,” Colony head coach Jamie Smith said.
Morgan McJimsey also scored and Forrest Savel stopped 29 shots to earn the shutout and help the Knights improve to 5-1-1 in NSC play. The victory keeps the Knights in a race with Soldotna (5-1-0) for the top spot in the NSC.
Colony and Soldotna meet tonight at 7 p.m. at the Curtis C. Menard II Memorial Ice Arena in Wasilla.
The game was scoreless until Stephen Kempinski set up the Kolendo goal with 10 minutes left in the second. Kempinski, a freshman, pulled the puck out of the corner and fed Kolendo with a centering pass.
McJimsey skated the puck out of his own defensive zone and buried a shot in the corner of the Homer net with five minutes left in the third to give Colony the 2-0 lead.
Wasilla 2, Homer 0
Thursday, Brett Arena
First period — no scoring.
Second period — 1. Colony- Kolendo (Symbol) 10:07.
Third period — 2. Colony- McJimsey (unassisted) 5:09.
Shots on goal: Homer 11-11-11—33, Colony 11-14-6-31; Saves: Homer- Sanarov 11-13-5—29, Colony- Savel 11-11-11—33.