The Soldotna hockey team gave goalie Cody Harvey a chance, and Harvey responded by getting his team a victory.
Behind 22 saves from Harvey, the Stars topped Homer 2-1 in nonconference hockey action Tuesday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The two squads are both in the North Star Conference, but they will see each other for two conference games down the road. SoHi is now 1-3, while Homer is 0-2.
Harvey had yielded 13 goals in three games in the Peninsula Ice Challenge last weekend, but coach Aaron Swanson said the problem was his young squad was giving up too many chances from point-blank range.
Homer pressed hard for the equalizer late in the game, taking 10 shots in the third period to SoHi’s five, but the Stars kept the point-blank chances to a minimum and Harvey responded by slamming the door shut in the third.
“We were mostly giving up perimeter shots,” Swanson said. “I’d be fine giving up 50 perimeter shots if that keeps them from getting five shots from up close.”
Swanson said he saw improvement in the game, but that his team still has room to improve. One of those areas is starting off the game strong.
Homer was coming off a season-opening, 5-2 loss to Kenai and came out determined to avoid a similar fate against Soldotna.
“We were ready for this game,” said Homer goalie Markian Polushkin, who made 18 saves. “Last week, we weren’t ready. We came out flat-footed.”
The Mariners took the lead with 7 minutes, 3 seconds, left in the first period when Garrett Butcher fed the puck to Clem Tillion right on Harvey’s doorstep. Tillion took several swipes at the loose puck and it ended up easing past the goal line.
With under a minute and a half to play in the first period, an end-to-end exchange provided a turning point in the game.
Homer had several great chances that Harvey turned aside. SoHi’s Levi Hensley fed the puck up to Justice Miller, who broke out into a two-on-one with Stephen Endsley. Miller waited until just the right split-second to slip the puck to Endsley on the far pipe for a goal.
“That was a big goal because it gave us energy,” Swanson said. “We had a slow start.”
Nick Wrobel scored the game-winner with 3:20 left in the second period. He took a pass from Jacob O’Lena, cleanly beat a defender and swooped in all alone on Polushkin.
Harvey was able to make the lead stand up despite increasing pressure from Homer in the third period. With about seven minutes left in the game, Homer sniper Tommy Bowe got free in the slot but Harvey came through with the glove save.
After Mariners coach John Carlin called time out with 3:48 left, Homer increased the pressure even more. Polushkin said the instructions during the time out were simple.
“He just said to get the puck to the net and try to score a goal,” he said.
Despite the loss, Polushkin said the team is headed in the right direction.
“We played a lot better than last week,” he said. “We controlled the puck and were able to get more shots. We were better on offense and on defense.”
Soldotna travels to Juneau for games Friday and Saturday. Homer is off until the End of the Road Shootout begins Nov. 21 in Homer.
Stars 2, Mariners 1
Homer 1 0 0 —1
Soldotna 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Homer, Tillion (Butcher), 7:57; 2. Soldotna, Endsley (Miller, Hensley), 13:45. Penalties — Homer 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Soldotna, Wrobel (O’Lena), 11:40. Penalties — Homer 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Homer 8-5-10—23; Soldotna 9-6-5—20.
Goalies — Homer, Polushkin (20 shots, 18 saves); Soldotna, Harvey (23 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Homer 0 for 2; Soldotna 0 for 3.