After a successful three days of group play, the Under-16 Ice Hawks were eliminated from the Tier II National Championships on Saturday with a 6-2 loss to the Greensboro Stars (N.C.) in Troy, Mich.
The Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association team had entered the quarterfinals of the championship bracket as the fourth seed, but the fifth-seeded Stars took advantage of several penalties against Kenai in the second period that allowed them to score four goals.
“At this level every team is good,” said KPHA assistant coach Michael Tilly. “They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t good. They’re a fast-attacking team, and we took a few penalties in the second period that really put us on our heels.”
Following a scoreless period, Greensboro scored four goals by the 12:30 mark of the second period. Jake Eubank finally put the Ice Hawks on the board with 3 minutes, 24 seconds, left in the period.
Trevor Wagoner, who scored 10 goals in group play — tied for most overall — was sent to the penalty box early in the second period for a misconduct call, and Greensboro had three goals while he was there.
“One of our dominant players took a 10-minute penalty, and it hurt us a bit,” Tilly said.
Eubank scored his second goal with 7:45 left in the third period to close the gap to 4-2.
“We changed things up in the third, and we scored and got a little closer, but the last goal was an empty-netter,” Tilly said. “We had a 4-2 deficit so we got aggressive and pulled our goalie (Nate O’Lena). I think it was a lot closer game then what the score shows.”
Even with the loss, Tilly said the team went back to the locker room and talked about the positives and the highlights from the tournament.
Tilly also mentioned that Ice Hawks head coach Vaughn Dosko surprised the team with tickets to today’s NHL game at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, featuring the Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.
“We’re all looking forward to that, so these kids were able to get back to the hotel and breathe and relax,” Tilly said. “It just goes to show that there’s a lot of talented hockey players from our area. Kids that grew up in KPHA are good, and we’ve gotten further into the tournament than past teams. It comes down to the commitment these kids have.”
On Friday, the Ice Hawks finished off an impressive three days of pool play, defeating Huntsville (Ala.) 7-4.
The win gave the Ice Hawks three wins in three days, leaving them with a possible eight points out of nine, and the top of their four-team group. The only point the team left off the table was due to an overtime win over the Utah Grizzlies on Thursday.
On Friday, the Ice Hawks had to rally back from an early two-goal deficit to take the win over the Chargers.
The turning point in the game came with two seconds left in the second period, when Wagoner scored for Kenai to tie it up at 4.
The Ice Hawks took their first lead of the game with 14 minutes, 12 seconds, left on a power-play goal from Eubank. Tommy Bowe and Eubank added two insurance goals later in the period.
Bowe, Eubank and Wagoner each ended up with four points in the game — Bowe and Eubank had two goals and two assists each, and Wagoner had a goal and three assists.
Stars 6, Ice Hawks 2
Greensboro 0 4 2 —6
Kenai 0 1 1 —2
1st Period — None. Penalties — Kenai 3 for 6:00.
2nd Period — 1. Greensboro, Riedell (Harris), 2:19; 2. Greensboro, Butterworth (Rutherford, Hudson), pp, 6:44; 3. Greensboro, Lewis (Hamilton, Hudson), pp, 8:38; 4. Greensboro, Butterworth (Webb), 12:29; 5. Kenai, Eubank (Lott Jr.), 16:36. Penalties — Kenai 3 for 14:00; Greensboro 2 for 4:00.
3rd Period — 6. Kenai, Eubank (Dosko), 12:15; 7. Greensboro, Webb (Hudson, Lyon), 13:33; 8. Greensboro, Gustafson (unassisted), 16:55. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00; Greensboro 2 for 4:00.
Goalies — Kenai, O’Lena (39 shots, 33 saves); Greensboro, Pierce (19 shots, 17 saves).
Shots on goal — Kenai 19; Greensboro 39.
Power plays — Kenai 0 for 4; Greensboro 2 for 6.
Ice Hawks 7, Chargers 4
Kenai 2 2 3 —7
Huntsville 3 1 0 —4
1st period — 1. Huntsville, Darnell (unassisted), 3:40; 2. Huntsville, Babbidge (Kalson, Dodd), 6:56; 3. Kenai, Tilly Jr. (Zorbas), 11:08; 4. Huntsville, Darnell (Hornsby, Babbidge), 15:17; 5. Kenai, Dosko (Wagoner), 17:15.
2nd period — 6. Kenai, Bowe (unassisted), 8:54; 7. Huntsville, Kalson (Hornsby), 14:10; 8. Kenai, Wagoner (Bowe, Eubank), 19:58.
3rd period — 9. Kenai, Eubank (Wagoner), pp, 5:48; 10. Kenai, Eubank (Bowe, Wagoner), 7:19; 11. Kenai, Bowe (Eubank), pp, 10:27.
Goalies — Kenai, O’Lena (26 shots, 22 saves); Huntsville, Glassman (34 shots, 28 saves), Ragland (11 shots, 10 saves).