The Soldotna Stars certainly don’t lack a flair for the dramatic.
After scoring the game-winner during the final second of its first-round game and netting a double-overtime win during the semifinals, Soldotna scored late in fourth overtime to earn a 3-2 win over Wasilla in the North Star Conference championships title game at Kevin Bell Arena in Homer on Saturday afternoon.
Soldotna forward Kenny Griffin led a two-on-one break and lifted a shot into the Wasilla net with 2 minutes, 38 seconds, left in the fourth tiebreaker.
“It was pretty incredible,” Soldotna coach Aaron Swanson said. “We’ll be mostly resting and relaxing (tonight). The kids are worn out from this game.”
With the win, Soldotna notched its first NSC tourney title since 2009. The third-seeded Stars needed three dramatic victories to earn the trophy. In the first-round Thursday, Ty Fenton scored in the final second of regulation to give Soldotna a 3-2 win over sixth-seeded Palmer. In Friday’s semifinal round, Preston Weeks scored 13 seconds into a second overtime to give the Stars a 3-2 win over second-seeded Colony.
In Saturday’s championship game, the Wasilla Warriors outshot Soldotna 55-19 through the first three overtimes, but Soldotna had its opportunities in the fourth overtime frame. Griffin bounced a shot off the pipe during the first shift of the fourth overtime.
“Wasilla was bringing a lot of pressure and getting shots, and when the fourth overtime period began, I think we just caught a second wind or something,” Swanson said. “The kids just kept battling all game.”
With the score knotted at two apiece, Wasilla held the puck in the Soldotna defensive zone for the majority of the first three overtime periods. After outshooting Soldotna 16-7 in the third period, the Warriors allowed just three shots in the first three overtimes.
Wasilla opened the scoring with 4:40 left in the first period. Defenseman Blake Carricaburu blasted a shot from the point, and Cody Butcher redirected the puck and scored to give Wasilla the 1-0 lead. Soldotna tied the game midway through the second period. Monear made the save on a Griffin shot, but Fenton knocked in the rebound to tie the game at 1.
Nick Wrobel scored on a short breakaway with 20 seconds left in the second period to give Soldotna the 2-1 advantage, its first lead of the game. Wrobel picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, split a pair of Wasilla defensemen and used a quick move in front of the crease to beat Monear on the breakaway.
Early in the third period, Cooper Hanson scored to tie the game at 2.
“This is just a wonderful group of kids, all season long they persevered and battled,” Swanson said. “This is a team that doesn’t rely on anyone, but we play as a group. I think that was really evident throughout the tournament, because we had three game-winning goals from three different players.”
Swanson also said goalie Cody Harvey, who made 56 saves, came up huge as always.
Wasilla, the No. 1 seed in the tourney, suffered its third loss of the year to the Stars. Soldotna had previously beat Wasilla 3-0 early in the regular season and 3-2 in overtime in January at the Brett Memorial Ice Arena in Wasilla. The Warriors will make their fifth straight trip to the state tourney, despite the loss.
Wasilla opened its tournament with an 8-1 semifinal win over Kenai on Friday.
Wrobel and defender Jacob O’Lena were both named to the first All-Conference squad. Harvey and forward Justice Miller were named to the second All-Conference team, and forward Ty Fenton and Hunter Lott were honorable mentions.
Soldotna 3, Colony 2, 2 OT
Weeks scored 13 seconds into the second overtime to give Soldotna a 3-2 win over Colony on Friday in the semifinals at the North Star Conference tournament at Kevin Bell Ice Arena in Homer.
Weeks’ tally, his second of the game, gave the Stars a state berth for the second straight year.
Weeks also gave the Stars the lead in the first period, assisted by Nick Wrobel and Justice Miller. After Logan Sanders, assisted by Cole Bloemer, knotted the game at the 12:48 mark of the second, Soldotna struck back at the 11:51 mark. Fenton scored on assists from Wrobel and Griffin.
Colony forced overtime with 6:43 left in the game. Gunner Stadem came up with the equalizer on assists from Curtis Foster and Mark Thygeson.
That set up the winner by Weeks. Wrobel had his third assist on the play, while Fenton also assisted.
Harvey made 22 saves for the Stars, while Colton Beebe had 17 for the Knights.
Wasilla 8, Kenai Central 1
Even when the Wasilla Warriors weren’t scoring goals, head coach Trent Schachle still liked his team’s opportunities. And once Wasilla managed to put away its first puck, the Warriors simply could not be stopped.
Wasilla scored eight unanswered goals, including six in the final period, and raced to a win over Kenai during the semifinals.
“In the first period we had a few opportunities we didn’t bury. The kids were pretty nervous. This was a must-win game. And then we started burying opportunities,” Schachle said by cellphone from Homer after the win.
Junior Tanner Schachle netted the hat trick and six different Warriors scored to help Wasilla advance to the finals and earn its fifth straight trip to the state tournament.
Cooper Hanson, Adam Apangalook, Olaf Jensen, Austin Cook and Cody Butcher also scored for the Warriors, who outshot Kenai 29-11 in the game.
Kenai took a 1-0 lead into the second period of an unassisted goal by Jake Eubank, but Tanner Schachle tied the score with just less than nine minutes left in the middle frame. The forward raced up the left wing and put a quick shot past Kenai goalie Justin Alvey. Less than two minutes later, Hanson took a centering pass from Jack Reeves and snapped the puck into the net.
“We were working harder, moving the puck quicker,” Trent Schachle said.
Wasilla blew the game open early in the third with a pair of rebound goals. Schachle knocked in a third rebound, the last off a Reeves shot, to give Wasilla the 3-1 lead. After a flurry of action in front of the Kenai net, Apangalook knocked in a loose puck with 9:59 left.
Jensen snapped a shot from the top of the left circle to give Wasilla the 5-1 lead.
Schachle, Cook and Butcher added goals during the final three minutes of play.
Jensen, Reeves, Garrett Conroy and Blake Carricaburu finished with two assists each for Wasilla. Freshman Wyatt Monear stopped 10 Kenai shots to earn the win in the Wasilla net.
North Star Conference awards
Most Valuable Player — Colton Beebe, Colony.
Coach of the Year — John Carlin, Homer.
All-region team — Tanner Schachle, Wasilla; Jake Eubank, Kenai; Nick Wrobel, Soldotna; Tommy Bowe, Homer; Jarrett Johns, Palmer; Colton Symbol, Colony; Jacob O’Lena, Soldotna; Andrew Cooley, Wasilla; Gunner Stadem, Colony; Logan Sanders, Colony; Tyler Hansen, Wasilla; Colton Beebe, Colony.
Second team — TJ Wagoner, Kenai; Mark Thygeson, Colony; Jake Elwell, Colony; Josh Boyer, Colony; Konstantine Reutov, Homer; Cooper Hanson, Wasilla; Curtis Foster, Colony; Michael Tilly, Kenai; Josh Meyer, Palmer; Justice Miller, Soldotna; Blake Carricaburu, Wasilla; Cody Harvey, Soldotna.
Honorable mention — Ty Fenton, Soldotna; Kenny Griffin, Soldotna; Hunter Lott, Soldotna; Kiril Sanarov, Homer; Darren Fish, Palmer; Jacob Link, Colony; Adam Apangalook, Wasilla; Troy Verplancke, Wasilla; Luke Schruf, Wasilla; Isaac Mese, Kenai; Dalton Dosko, Kenai; Markian Polushkin, Homer; Cody Grogan, Palmer; Wyatt Monear, Wasilla; Justin Alvey, Kenai.
Good sport team — Kiana Verplancke, Wasilla; Sarah Diltz, Colony; Justice Miller, Soldotna; Caleb Caldwell, Kenai; Clem Tillion, Homer; Valarie Dietz, Palmer.
Stars 3, Warriors 2, 4 OT
Soldotna 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 —3
Wasilla 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 —2
First period — 1. Wasilla, Butcher (Carricaburu, Jensen), 10:20. Penalties — Wasilla 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Soldotna, Fenton (Wrobel, Griffin), 7:26; 3. Soldotna, Wrobel (un.), 14:40. Penalties — Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Wasilla 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 4. Wasilla, Hanson (Reeves, Schachle), 4:54. Penalties — Wasilla 1 for 2:00.
First overtime — none. Penalties — Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Wasilla 2 for 4:00.
Second overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Third overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Fourth overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Soldotna 2-5-7-1-2-0-3—20; Wasilla 7-12-16-6-8-6-3—58.
Goalies — Soldotna, Harvey (58 shots, 56 saves); Wasilla, Monear (20 shots, 17 saves).
Warriors 8, Kardinals 1
First period — 1. Kenai- Eubank (unassisted) 2:57.
Second period — 2. Wasilla- Schachle (Hanson, Carricaburu) 8:55; 3. Wasilla- Hanson (Reeves, Carricaburu) 6:56.
Third period — 4. Wasilla- Schachle (Reeves, Cooley) 13:53; 5. Wasilla- Apangalook (unassisted) 9:59; 6. Wasilla- Jensen (Butcher, Conroy) 4:34; 7. Wasilla- Schachle (unassisted) 2:53; 8. Wasilla- Cook (Jensen) 2:06; 9. Wasilla- Butcher (Jensen, Conroy) 1:45.
Shots on goal: Kenai 6-3-2—11, Wasilla 7-9-13—29; Saves: Kenai- Alvey 7-7-7—21, Wasilla- Monear 5-3-2—10.
Stars 3, Knights 2, 2 OT
Soldotna 1 1 0 0 1 —3
Colony 0 1 1 0 0 —2
First period — 1. Soldotna, Weeks (Wrobel, Miller), 12:44. Penalties — Colony 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Colony, Sanders (Bloemer), 2:12; 3. Soldotna, Fenton (Wrobel, Griffin), 3:09. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Colony, Stadem (Foster, Thygeson), 8:17. Penalties — none.
First overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Second overtime — 5. Soldotna, Weeks (Wrobel, Fenton), 0:13. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Soldotna 20, Colony 24.
Goalies — Soldotna, Harvey (24 shots, 22 saves); Colony, Beebe (20 shots, 17 saves).