WASILLA — With a pair of goals in the final four minutes of the second period, the Homer Mariners appeared to gain a little more steam. But the Wasilla Warriors answered, scoring four times during the final period to grab a 7-2 win over the Mariners during the North Star Conference semifinals at the Menard Arena in Wasilla on Friday night.
“We responded well. We didn’t have a very good second period,” Wasilla head coach Trent Schachle said after the win. “The kids responded well to the pressure there.”
Kilil Sanarov scored twice during the final 3 minutes, 19 seconds, of the second to cut Wasilla’s lead to 3-2.
“They’re a good team,” Schachle said of the Mariners. “They play together as a team really well.”
Blake Marks, Garrett Conroy, Austin Parks and Tyler Lutz all scored during the final 15 minutes to help Wasilla cement the win and set up an all-Valley North Star Conference final, which Colony won 5-3. Both Wasilla and Colony earned state tournament berths with wins Friday.
Wasilla slipped a pair of shots from the point by sturdy Homer net minder Markian Polushkin late in the game, but battles near the net helped Wasilla create some space in the score earlier during the period.
“It wasn’t a 7-2 game. (Homer) played hard,” Schachle said. “They had guys forcing the puck all the time. We just got the bounces. We kept on working harder, and got the bounces.”
Early in the third, Marks knocked in the rebound of a Conroy shot to give Wasilla the 4-2 lead. About four minutes later, Conroy, parked at the doorstep, tipped a puck into the net.
Wasilla’s first two goals of the third were similar to the first scores of the game.
Wasilla built an initial lead in the first. Captain Luke Schruf skated the puck up the left wing to the back boards, where he centered a pass to Marks. The pass allowed Marks to tap in the puck for a score.
About four minutes later, Alex Clark fed a short pass up the ice to Justin Bayliffe, who snuck a shot from between the circles into the net.
Conroy added to Wasilla’s lead, scoring 31 seconds into the second period.
Schachle said his team’s play around the Homer net was a key to the victory.
“We told them, you’ve got to be tougher around the net,” Schachle said.
Saranov, who netted the game-winner in the 2-1 overtime win over Soldotna in the semifinals, helped pull Homer back into the game late in the second period. With just more than three minutes left, Sanarov was awarded a penalty shot. The Homer captain responded by using a quick move to beat Wasilla senior Kiana Verplancke, and put the Mariners on the scoreboard.
About a minute later, after another Wasilla penalty, Sanarov snapped a wrister from the left wing circle on the power play to cut Wasilla’s lead to 3-2.
Third-seeded Colony moved into the final with a 4-2 win over Palmer, the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
Wasilla 7, Homer 2
Friday, Menard Arena
First period — 1. Wasilla- Marks (Schruf, Morrison) 9:15; 2. Wasilla- Bayliffe (Clark) 5:44.
Second period — 3. Wasilla- Conroy (C. Matson, Marks) 14;29; 4. Homer- Sanarov (penalty shot) 3:19; 5. Homer- Sanarov (Delahanty, C. Tillion) pp 2:15.
Third period — 6. Wasilla- Marks (Conroy) 9:29; 7. Wasilla- Conroy (Schruf) pp 4:58; 8. Wasilla- Parks (Butcher, Bayliffe) 4:17; 9. Wasilla- Lutz (unassisted) 4:02.
Shots on goal: Homer 8-9-8—25, Wasilla 9-13-15—37; Saves: Homer- Polushkin 7-12-11-30, Wasilla- Verplancke 8-7-8—23.