With eight freshmen on this year's varsity team, including five that start, the Nikiski hockey team is measuring success by how much it matures and learns this season.
Friday, the Bulldogs got a chance to learn from the best.
Houston, the reigning champion of the Greatland Conference, picked up an 18-1 victory over the Bulldogs at the Jason Peterson Memorial Ice Rink in Nikiski.
The Hawks improved to 15-2-2 overall and 8-0 in the conference with the victory, while the Bulldogs fell to 0-9 with the loss.
"Playing against Houston, they now know what it takes to skate with some of these guys," Nikiski coach Donald Torres said of his freshmen. "They were great on offense, defense, stick-handling, passing, running plays and the power play."
Wade Williams dominated for Houston. He ended up with four goals and six assists.
Also for the Hawks, Jason Hundley had three goals and an assist, Aaron Burelson had three assists and a goal, Chad Lipse had three goals, Jeremy Morlock had three assists, Devin Styers and Dillon Styers each had a goal and two assists, Kaleb Westfall had two goals and an assist and Paul Sutton-Jones had two goals.
The Hawks had a game Thursday against Wasilla and then Saturday against Anchorage's South High, so Houston coach Jamie Smith did not bring his full varsity squad to Nikiski. Six players in Houston's rotation Friday do not normally see a lot of ice time on varsity.
Torres still knew the Bulldogs faced a tough task Friday.
"What we tried to do is stay with them as long as we could," Torres said. "They are so strong."
After the first period, the Hawks had a 4-0 lead.
"I was happy with the start of the game," Torres said. "We're still not strong enough to finish three periods but we will get better at that."
The Hawks scored seven goals in the second period and seven in the third period.
Torres was not happy that the Bulldogs collected seven penalties in the contest.
"One of the things we knew we had to do against them was to stay out of the box," Torres said. "We're improving in some areas and not improving in others.
"We're in a funk right now with penalties."
Nikiski scored its lone goal early in the third period on a power play, ruining the shutout bid of Houston backup goalie Henry Orth. Reece Parrish lit the lamp on an assist from Matt O'Brien.
O'Brien sustained an injury later in the third period that kept him lying on the ice for a minute, but Torres said his player would be OK.
HAWKS 18, BULLDOGS 1
Houston 4 7 7 18
Nikiski 0 0 1 1
First period 1. Houston, Williams (un.), 1:27; 2. Houston, Lipse (un.), 2:04; 3. Houston, Styers (Hundley, Burelson), 4:15; 4. Houston, Burelson (J. Morlock), 11:23. Penalties Nikiski 2 for 4:00.
Second period 5. Houston, Westfall (J. Morlock), 1:09; 6. Houston, Lipse (Williams), 1:22; 7. Houston, Williams (un.), 1:45; 8. Houston, Williams (un.), 5:16; 9. Houston, Sutton-Jones (J. Morlock, Burelson), 8:15; 10. Houston, Lipse (Styers, Williams), 8:27; 11. Houston, Styers (Williams), 9:27. Penalties Houston 4 for 8:00; Nikiski 2 for 4:00.
Third period 12. Nikiski, Parrish (O'Brien), 0:48; 13. Houston, Westfall (Williams), 7:01; 14. Houston, Williams (un.), 8:30; 15. Houston, Kincaid (Westfall), 10:57; 16. Houston, Hundley (Williams), 11:14; 17. Houston, Sutton-Jones (Styers, Burelson), 11:42; 18. Houston, Hundley (Styers), 12:03; 19. Houston, Hundley (Styers, Williams), 12:24. Penalties Houston 2 for 4:00; Nikiski 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal Houston 20-18-1351; Nikiski 4-6-212.
Goalies Houston, Orth (12 shots, 11 saves); Nikiski, Zulkanycz (38 shots, 27 saves), Schwenke (13 shots, 6 saves).
Homer sweeps Kenny Lake
The Homer hockey team defeated Kenny Lake Friday and Saturday in Greatland Conference games at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.
The Mariners are now 7-1-1 in conference and 11-5-2 overall.
Coach John Butcher said the team was able to have four practices on ice this week. He said that helped the team, which had been struggling with getting on ice all year.
Friday, the Mariners won 3-0 with Ben Miller recording the shutout and Keith Bell, Scott Owen and Justin Adams recording goals.
Saturday, Homer recorded a 5-3 victory.
Adams had two goals in the game, while Owen, Travis Brown and Drake Piper also lit the lamp.
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