The hot stick of Tri-Valley Viking Warriors' center Alec Venechuk, combined with penalties, became a double-edged sword which sliced through the Nikiski Bulldogs hockey team with painful precision.
Nikiski felt the broom wielded by the Warriors, who swept the host Bulldogs in a two-game Greatland Hockey Conference series. Nikiski dropped the Friday night opener 9-8 before stumbling to an 8-4 loss Saturday.
Nikiski felt the sting of Venechuk's scoring as he glided to hat tricks both Friday and Saturday. Teammate Hawken VanBebben also netted a hat trick Saturday.
Tri-Valley's scoring wasn't the only aspect of the game that made life difficult for the Bulldogs.
"It hurts to put that many kids in the box," Nikiski coach Irv Smith said of his team's 11 penalties for 30 minutes. "Our goal was to win, and after (Friday) night we wanted to put a few more goals up. It just didn't work out that way."
The Bulldogs drew first blood in Saturday's game as defenseman Dan Gerhauser took a pass from Quincy Bird and drove it into the back of the net with a slapshot from the blue line.
"Hockey teams need two things to win," Bulldog Chris Pepper said of his teammate. "Speed and thought -- guys like (Gerhauser) have both."
Gerhauser added to his points with assists on the Bulldogs' second and fourth goals in the second and third periods.
"Things were just working out for me," Gerhauser said. "I played more today than I have in any other games, and I just really felt I was in my game."
Nikiski found the net three times after Gerhauser scored the opening goal. Pepper scored in the second period with a slapshot past Tri-Valley goalie Jason Lassell's stick, Brett Alleman scored on a wrist shot after the puck slid away from Lassell in the third period during a Bulldog power play. Todd Bringham added Nikiski's final score in the third with a slapshot that skimmed the ice and went under the goalie's glove.
The Bulldogs, who only held the lead for four minutes and 48 seconds in the first period, headed into Saturday's game with a specific defensive goal -- to stop the dead-eye shooting of the Warriors' Venechuk, who scored six goals against them Friday night.
"It was a hard-fought game," Smith said. "We just fell apart in the last seven minutes or so. We had planned to try and stop (Venechuk) but he just found a way past our goalie. Nigel (Penhale, goalie) has been doing a stellar job for us, he just couldn't get in his game today."
After the Warriors scored twice on goals by VanBebben in the first period and Walker Milliken in the second, Venechuk found the net in the second with a slapshot past the glove hand of Penhale with 8:27 off the clock. VanBebben hit the back of the net again in the second before Venechuk stole the show in the third period, scoring three consecutive goals against a tiring Nikiski defense. VanBebben sealed the scoring in the third with his third goal.
"We went into the game wanting to work hard, keep our heads in it and to keep out of the penalty box," Tri-Valley coach Glen Weaver said. "We had a few more penalties than we would have liked, but less than Nikiski. That tends to show up on the scoreboard."
Friday night's game found the Warriors skating to a win after falling behind 2-0 early in the first period. The Bulldogs kept chipping away a small lead throughout the contest until the third period, when Venechuk put the final touches on an offensive struggle, scoring with 2:38 left on the clock.
Friday and Saturday's wins have set the Warriors on a three-game winning streak, all of which are in the Greatland Conference, after they dropped their first nine of the season.
"I think this team will do things in the next couple of years," Smith said of his team's future. "I think we should do well in the state tournament and it shows on the ways we have improved our game."
The Bulldogs, who dropped to 2-14-1, will face the Wasilla junior varsity squad Saturday at 10 a.m.
VIKING WARRIORS 9, BULLDOGS 8
Tri-Valley 5 2 2 --9
Nikiski 3 3 2 --8
First period -- 1. Nikiski, Bird (unassisted), 1:10; 2. Nikiski, Alleman (Litzen), 5:58; 3. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (Brannen) 6:02; 4. Tri-Valley, Milliken (unassisted) 7:35; 5. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (unassisted), 9:27; 6. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (Brannen), 12:06; 7. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (unassisted), 12:58; 8. Nikiski, C. Pepper (Alleman), 14:52. Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00; Tri-Valley 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 9. Nikiski, Bird (Bringham, DeShong), 0:47; 10. Nikiski, Taurianen (Bringham), 1:12 (pp); 11. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (unassisted), 7:07; 12. Tri-Valley, VanBebben (Venechuk), 6:35; 13. Nikiski, Bringham (unassisted), 7:51. Penalties -- Nikiski 4 for 8:00; Tri-Valley 3 for 6:00.
Third period -- 14. Nikiski, Bird (Flensburg), 0:24 (pp); 15. Tri-Valley, Milliken (Venechuk, VanBebben), 1:12; 16. Nikiski, Bringham (DeShong), 8:34; 17. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (VanBabben, Guhrt), 12:24. Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00, Tri-Valley 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal -- Nikiski 20-9-16--45; Tri-Valley 19-13-14--46.
Goalies -- Nikiski, Penhale (46 shots-37 saves); Tri-Valley, Lassell (45 shots-37 saves).
VIKING WARRIORS 8, BULLDOGS 4
Tri-Valley 1 3 4 --8
Nikiski 1 1 2 --4
First period -- 1. Nikiski, Gerhauser (Bird), 4:32; 2. Tri-Valley, VanBebben (Milliken), 7:58. Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00; Tri-Valley 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 3. Tri-Valley, Milliken (unassisted), 4:04; 4. Nikiski, C. Pepper (Gerhauser), 5:16; 5. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (VanBebben), 8:27; 6. Tri-Valley, VanBebben (Milliken) (pp), 13:53. Penalties -- Nikiski 6 for 20:00; Tri-Valley 4 for 8:00.
Third period -- 7. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (unassisted), 9:22; 8. Nikiski, Alleman (Taurianen), 11:47 (pp); 9. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (Milliken), 11:01; 10. Tri-Valley, Venechuk (VanBebben), 11:06. 11. Tri-Valley, VanBebben (unassisted) (pp), 11:16; 12. Nikiski, Bringham (Bird, Gerhauser). Penalties -- Nikiski 5 for 10:00, Tri-Valley 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal -- Nikiski 10-5-11--26; Tri-Valley 20-9-13--42.
Goalies -- Nikiski, Penhale (42 shots-34 saves); Tri-Valley, Lassell (26 shots-22 saves).
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