The Soldotna hockey team started out this season with trouble scoring goals. That wasn't an issue as the Stars started the second half of their season Tuesday.
Soldotna scored nine goals in the first two periods in rolling to a 10-3, nonconference victory over Nikiski at Jason Peterson Memorial Ice Rink.
The Stars were led by seniors Johnny Mills and Tony Azzara, who each had hat tricks. Also for the Stars, junior Matt Vasilie picked up two goals and two assists and senior JJ Sullivan recorded three assists.
"We had trouble scoring early in the season, but we're starting to create more goals," Mills said. "This is the first time all season we've had more than a few goals in a game."
The game served as a way for both teams to shake off a little rust after the long Christmas break. Nikiski has conference games against Kenny Lake Thursday and Friday, while the Stars play at Dimond Friday and at Service Saturday.
Azzara said the Stars practiced just three times over Christmas break. The team also stayed ready for action by getting together and playing informally on various sheets of ice in the area.
"We built some confidence going into the second half of the season tonight," Azzara said. "Our passing and scoring are getting better and better."
The Stars dominated the first two periods of play, posting a 9-1 advantage. Nikiski's one score came when senior Nick Russell found sophomore Israel Blatchford wide open in front of the Soldotna net.
Nikiski started to turn the tide in the third period, though. The Bulldogs were outshot 29-13 in the first two periods of play, but outshot Soldotna nine to eight in the last period of play.
The Bulldogs also outscored the Stars in the final period, 2-1. Both of Nikiski's goals came from Louie Oliva on the power play.
"That third period definitely got us ready for Thursday and Friday," Oliva said. "We were a little rusty getting back onto the ice, but by the third period everybody was starting to mesh again."
Oliva said the Bulldogs have been holding practice since Dec. 26, but added many on the team were not able to attend due to various obligations.
"(Nikiski) kept playing hard and didn't give up," Mills said. "They kept grinding."
Others with multiple points for the Stars were sophomore Kevin Laurion with a goal and an assist and freshman Erik Shapley and junior Brennan Best, who each had two assists.
Senior Jon Verhelst made 19 saves on 22 shots for the Stars. Nikiski started freshman Abby Womack in net, and also gave senior Luke Hardesty some time between the pipes.
"Abby did a great job in her first varsity start," Oliva said.
STARS 10, BULLDOGS 3
Soldotna 5 4 1 10
Nikiski 0 1 2 3
First period 1. Soldotna, Mills (un.), 4:34; 2. Soldotna, Mills (Vasilie, Sullivan), 4:52; 3. Soldotna, Azzara (Wilbanks), 10:11; 4. Soldotna, Mills (Vasilie, Sullivan), 11:57; 5. Soldotna, Laurion (Best), 13:51. Penalties Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Second period 6. Nikiski, Blatchford (Russell), 0:48; 7. Soldotna, Vasilie (Sullivan), 2:10; 8. Soldotna, Vasilie (Romberg), 2:51; 9. Soldotna, Grundy (Kennedy, E. Shapley), 5:27; 10. Soldotna, Azzara (E. Shapley, Herring), 6:43. Penalties Soldotna 5 for 18:00; Nikiski 4 for 8:00.
Third period 11. Nikiski, Oliva (Allemann), 1:26; 12. Nikiski, Oliva (un.), 4:54; 13. Soldotna, Azzara (Best, Laurion), 12:11. Penalties Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal Soldotna 14-15-837; Nikiski 7-6-922.
Goalies Soldotna, Verhelst (22 shots, 19 saves); Nikiski, A. Womack, L. Hardesty (37 shots, 27 saves).
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