The good news for the Kenai Central High School hockey team is that two nights in a row, the Kardinals put together two periods of solid hockey against two strong teams from Anchorage.
The bad news is that things unraveled for the Kards in the third period of both games. Kenai was stuck with an 8-3 loss to Bartlett Friday and a 7-1 loss to Chugiak Saturday.
"We've gotta have three good periods," Kenai coach Brian Gabriel Sr. said after Saturday's game. "It's more mental breakdowns than anything else. If you make those mistakes, teams like Chugiak will make you pay for them."
Chugiak's Josh Curry potted a power-play goal 1:30 into the game and Jason Johnson made it 2-0 at the first intermission.
Derek Anderson redirected a shot from the point to give the Mustangs a 3-0 lead early in the second period, but the Kardinals got on the board with 6:17 left before the second intermission, thanks to a two-man advantage.
Mike Brown took the puck at the Chugiak blue line and angled toward the net, beating Mustangs goalie Thomas Hagan with a high, hard shot. Adrian Borchgrevink and Jack Darsey were credited with assists on the play.
"When we step up and play physical, that's when we play our best," Darsey said. "Everyone gets into it."
"We played with intensity through the first two periods," Brown said.
The Kardinals were rattled in the third period as the Mustangs netted goals by Matt Albert, Derek Anderson, Josh Curry and Mike Curry.
Gabriel Sr. couldn't find fault with the Kardinals' effort, though.
"We can work on (the mental mistakes) in practice. Heart and effort, you can't coach," Gabriel Sr. said. "It's like running the Iditarod. If you get a team that lies down on you at Safety, you're not going to win the race. These guys are all pulling at the harness to go out there and play every game."
The Kardinals did outshoot the Mustangs 28-27, but Hagan was able to get a pad on just about every Kenai shot. Steven Campanella finished with 20 saves for the Kardinals.
Kenai was faced with a similar situation in Friday's game, sticking close to Bartlett until the final period. Brown, Darsey and Brian Gabriel Jr. scored Kenai's goals against the Golden Bears.
MUSTANGS 7, KARDINALS 1
Chugiak 2 1 4 -- 7
Kenai 0 1 0 -- 1
First period -- 1. Chugiak, J. Curry (Anderson)1:30 (pp); 2. Chugiak, Johnson (M. Curry, Hall), 5:34. Penalties -- Chugiak 3 for 16:00, Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 3. Chugiak, Anderson (Sedinger, J. Curry), 4:32; 4. Kenai, Brown (Borchgrevink, Darsey), 8:43 (pp). Penalties -- Chugiak 5 for 10:00, Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period -- 5. Chugiak, Albert (Hall), 1:33; 6. Chugiak, Anderson (Johnson, J. Curry), 4:26 (pp); 7. Chugiak, J. Curry (unassisted), 6:30 (sh); 8. Chugiak, M. Curry (Hagan), 8:31. Penalties -- Chugiak 4 for 8:00, Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal -- Chugiak 10-8-9--27, Kenai 8-12-8--28.
Goalies -- Chugiak, Hagan (28 shots, 27 saves); Kenai, Campanella (27 shots, 20 saves).
CHUGIAK 5, SOLDOTNA 2
The Stars trailed the Mustangs 3-2 in the closing minutes of Friday's game and opted to pull goaltender Kelly Gee for the extra skater.
Chugiak was able to score on the empty net, though, clinching the nonconference win.
Sam Tikka and Billy Smith notched goals for the Stars.
Soldotna's Saturday night game against Bartlett was still under way as the Clarion went to press.
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