Soldotna came within one period of potentially taking home fourth-place honors at the ASAA First National Cup state tournament on Saturday, but before five minutes were up in the third period, Lathrop struck a blow to those chances.
In the end, the Stars went home empty-handed with a 3-0 loss to the Malamutes at the Curtis Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.
Soldotna head coach Aaron Swanson said his team couldn’t have played harder, and he was pleased with the effort level, even with the loss.
“It was a tight game, and 0-0 midway through the third before they went ahead, and we were trying to press a little bit,” Swanson said. “It was just an all-around effort from the team. Obviously we wish one of those games (in the tournament) could’ve gone the other way, but it was a good run.”
For SoHi, it is the furthest the Stars have gotten into the 4A state tournament as long as Swanson has been the coach.
“It’s one of those deals, you know, looking back onto it, the kids that are seniors, looking back I hope they realize what a season it was,” he said. “Even with the games we lost this year, we were usually contending, within a goal.”
On Saturday, after the first two scoreless periods, both teams had amassed nine shots on goal, but the final period was a different story, as Lathrop outshot SoHi 12-3.
Up until that point, Soldotna was 0-for-7 on the power play. That included a Lathrop five-minute major at the 10:05 mark of the second period. SoHi skated on 5-on-4, 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 power plays in the second.
Four minutes, 48 seconds, into the third period, Lathrop’s Max Blankenship picked up the loose puck on a power play in the SoHi defensive zone, skated through the right-wing circle and converted on a near-side post shot for the first goal of the game.
Just 4:53 later, Logan Parsley got the puck off a rebound that SoHi goalie Cody Harvey kept out, made the shot, Harvey saved again, but Parsley deflected his own rebound in and scored, giving Lathrop a two-goal lead and deflating the SoHi bench’s hopes.
In the waning minutes of the game, Swanson pulled Harvey for an extra attacker, but the move backfired as the Malamutes’ Connor Nilson got the third and final goal on Soldotna’s empty net from behind his own blue line.
SoHi goalie Cody Harvey had 18 saves on 21 shots.
“The first goal they had was a nice individual effort, the second goal was a hard-working goal, and from there we tried everything we could to get back,” Swanson said. “Just getting into that game today was a nice accomplishment, but we would’ve liked to win other games.”
With the season now over, Swanson said he harbors no regrets. He said Nick Wrobel, Dalton Pearson, Jarrett Urban and Jonas Perletti all performed to the best of their abilities.
“(Wrobel) came in and definitely stepped up and took control as an offensive leader, and Pearson, Urban, (Shayne) Miller and Perletti all are seniors that have stepped up and provided good leadership,” Swanson said. “This is a good group of players.”
ASAA fourth-place game
Saturday, Menard Arena
Lathrop 3, Soldotna 0
First period — no scoring.
Second period — no scoring.
Third period — 1. Lathrop, Blankenship (unassisted) pp 10:12; 2. Lathrop, Parsley (Stephens) pp 5:19; 3. Lathrop, Nilson (unassisted) en 0:39.
Shots on goal: Lathrop 2-7-12—21, Soldotna 5-4-3—12; Saves: Lathrop- Morey 5-4-3—12, Soldotna- Harvey 2-7-9—18.