The Soldotna hockey team scored two late goals at the Soldotna Sports Center to beat the Homer Mariners 3-0 on Thursday night and clinch a first-round bye for the North Star Conference tournament next weekend.
The only prize the Stars haven’t reached yet is first place in the conference.
“We’re really excited,” Soldotna head coach Aaron Swanson said. “Anytime we come to the rink we want to win. Homer’s record doesn’t reflect how good of a team they are.”
Soldotna inherited a first-round bye by virtue of Thursday’s win with an NSC record of 7-2, but have yet to clinch the top spot in the conference. If they beat Kenai Central in Friday’s game, then they can take that spot.
“They base everything around their goaltender, which is very good,” Swanson said of the Mariners. “They had a lot of good shots, but Cody came up big tonight.”
Sophomore goaltender Cody Harvey had 30 saves in the shutout.
Homer’s goaltender, junior Alex Sanarov, saved 32 of 35 shots.
“It’s kind of the story of our season, we came close, but we need to find ways to win,” Homer head coach Buck Laukitis said. “They’re a tough opponent.”
Soldotna scored only 22 seconds into the game with a shot by Jarrett Urban, courtesy of an assist by Jacob O’Lena, only to be held at bay for the rest of the first period and all of the second. The final two goals came in the last 3:32 of the game, with shots from Nick Wrobel and Urban.
“It was just a matter of getting the guys working, and we had a few chances early that didn’t go through,” Swanson said.
Urban said the win was what the team needed.
“The team really came together tonight,” Urban said. “Tomorrow we have to come out better than we did today, because today we came out a little slow.
“During the middle of the game, we weren’t playing like we normally do. We were playing at their level, and we didn’t play our own game.”
Laukitis said the team is keeping its hopes high, despite not playing a home game since November.
“We have a lot of good things going on right now. We have some new defensemen who are doing a good job, so we’re not discouraged,” he said.
Urban said Soldotna has high hopes for the conference tournament.
“No one thought we could do that this season, no one thought we had the talent, but we came through this year, and we’re excited,” he said.
Soldotna finishes off the regular season at home with a game against Kenai today at 7:15 p.m. Homer will go up against Kenai on Saturday at home at 7 p.m.
Stars 3, Mariners 0
Soldotna 1 0 2 —3
Homer 0 0 0 —0
First Period — 1. Urban (O’Lena), :22. Penalties — None.
Second Period — none. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2:00, Homer 1 for 2:00.
Third Period — 2. Wrobel (Miller), 11:28; 3. Urban (Pearson, Kerkvliet), 13:23. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Soldotna 10-9-11—30; Homer 12-7-16—35.
Goalies — Soldotna, Harvey (30 shots-30 saves); Homer, Sanarov (35 shots-32 saves).