Freshman Ross Hanson notched a hat trick as Kenai Central defeated Homer 5-3 on Tuesday in North Star Conference action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Kardinals (3-1 in the NSC) are fast gaining a reputation for a back-and-forth, attacking brand of hockey and Tuesday’s game did not disappoint.
Both goalies had to be on point all night, with Markian Polushkin making 28 saves for the Mariners (0-2-1 NSC) and Nate O’Lena turning aside 23 shots for the Kardinals. There was just one penalty called during the evening of fast-flowing hockey.
“With both O’Lena and Justin Alvey this year, the guys have a lot of confidence so they know they can take chances,” Kenai coach Pete Iverson said.
And take chances the Kardinals did. Kenai defeated Homer 5-2 in early November, and Iverson was impressed with the way the Mariners had improved.
“It seemed like whenever we gave them the chance, they were down in our end taking a shot on net,” the coach said.
The first period had no goals, as O’Lena stopped Kiril Sanarov on a breakaway and Kenai’s Conner Johnson banged one off the pipe.
Things picked up in the second period as the teams combined for six goals. Iverson was not happy with his team’s enthusiasm in the first, but said the Kards improved in the second.
“We played the game we practice,” he said.
Just 14 seconds into the second, Dalton Dosko hit Jake Eubank in the slot, where he wristed the puck over Polushkin’s glove. TJ Wagoner also assisted.
Homer came right back with 9:33 left. Clem Tillion found JJ Sonnen at the point. Sonnen put the puck on net and Ulian Kuzmin knocked in the rebound.
A little over two minutes later, Hanson carried the puck all the way up the nice and streaked behind the net. He momentarily lost the puck, but got it back and put a backhand through Polushkin’s five-hole, aided by a screen from Eubank.
“He works really hard,” Iverson said of Hanson. “He’s fast and he’s quick, and he moves the puck well.”
Homer again came back to tie. With 4:11 left in the second, Owen Delehanty scored from the slot. Dawson Roberts and Tommy Bowe had assists.
But Kenai continued to press the attack. With 3:18 left, Eubank, who had a goal disallowed at 4:45 because he kicked it in, found Wagoner in the slot for a goal.
Then with 1:54 left in the period, Hanson drove the net and stuffed the puck in for a 4-2 lead. Isaac Mese and Cody Arbelovsky had assists.
In the third period, the Mariners quickly took advantage of the lone power play of the night. Just 12 seconds into the power play, Anton Kuzmin cut the lead to 4-3 with a strike from the faceoff dot.
Both teams had chances aplenty down the homestretch, with Eubank hitting the pipe and being stopped on a breakaway. With 4:41, Hanson gave the Kards some breathing room by completing his hat trick. Defenseman Michael Tilly rushed all the way up the ice and put a shot on Polushkin, with Hanson cleaning up the rebound.
Iverson noted that Tilly, Johnson, Nathan Zorbas and Riley Weber are the only defenseman, so it was impressive Tilly had the gas to rush up the ice late in the game.
“We ask a lot of all of those guys,” Iverson said. “They’re all going to be in really good shape.”
Kardinals 5, Mariners 3
Homer 0 2 1 —3
Kenai 0 4 1 —5
First period — none. Penalties — none.
Second period — 1. Kenai, Eubank (Wagoner, Dosko), 0:14; 2. Homer, U. Kuzmin (Tillion, Sonnen), 5:27; 3. Kenai, Hanson (un.), 7:45; 4. Homer, Delehanty (Roberts, Bowe), 10:49; 5. Kenai, Wagoner (Eubank, Dosko), 11:42; 6. Kenai, Hanson (Mese, Arbelovsky), 13:06. Penalties — none.
Third period — 7. Homer, A. Kuzmin (un.), pp, 5:06; 8. Kenai, Hanson (Tilly), 10:19. Penalties — Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Homer 8-9-9—26; Kenai 10-14-9—33.
Goalies — Homer, Polushkin (33 shots, 28 saves); Kenai, O’Lena (26 shots, 23 saves).
Power plays — Homer 1 for 1; Kenai 0 for 0.