PALMER It’s shaping up to be the most interesting final stretch hockey teams in the North Star Conference have seen in years.
Powered by three goals from its first line, Colony scored a 3-2 win over Kenai at the Palmer Ice Arena on Saturday. The victory moves the Knights into second place in the regions, a point ahead of Kenai.
The Kardinals, who have pretty much owned the region for the last several seasons, suffered their second loss in as many days, and fell into third place in the conference. A shorthanded Kardinals squad fell to Wasilla 4-2 on Friday.
“We’re a little shorthanded. We’re missing a defensemen, we’re missing a forward a couple of key people out of our lineup,” Kenai head coach Nate Kiel said. “We don’t want to make excuses, but we just fell a little shy. We’ve had a hard time of putting together three solid periods per game against quality opponents. I think that taxed us a little bit.”
Like its loss the night before, Kenai fell behind quickly. Sophomore Blake Huppert and senior Austin Manelick scored less than two minutes apart early in the first period to give the Knights the 2-0 advantage. Wasilla took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission against Kenai.
“It was a rough weekend, we came up here with a tall order,” Kiel said. “Colony and Wasilla have great teams, so we knew it was going to be tough.”
Brad Fusaro wrapped the puck around a sprawling Colony goaltender, senior Tyrel Henkel, to cut the deficit to 2-1.
In the third period, McKennan Steinbeck scored on Kenai’s third opportunity in one shift to bring the score to 3-2. Kegan Kiel skated down and put the puck off the post. Kenai put a second shot on goal before Steinbeck was able to tally the score.
Kenai had a key 5-on-3 opportunity in the second period, but Colony managed to kill off both penalties. Colony defensemen Logan Huppert and Chris Breck were both whistled for penalties, and the Kardinals had the two-man advantage for 1 minute, 26 seconds.
Kiel put Kenai’s only two shots on net during that span, a pair of tries from the point.
Kenai outshot Colony 9-6 in the final frame, but was unable to convert an opportunity and tie the game. The Kardinals pulled goaltender Lauren Baldwin with 57 seconds left in the game.
Baldwin had 24 saves in the loss. Henkel stopped 21 shots for Colony.
Colony 3, Kenai 2
Kenai 1 0 1 2
Colony 2 0 1 3
First period 1. Colony, B. Huppert (Pauling), 10:20, 2. Colony, Manelick (B. Huppert), 8:56, 3. Kenai, Fusaro (Dukowitz, Brewer), 7:16.
Second period no scoring.
Third period 4. Colony, Pauling (Breck), 13:46, 5. Kenai, Steinbeck (McGlasson, Dukowitz), 9:51.
Shots on goal Kenai 6-8-923, Colony 13-8-627; Saves: Kenai- Baldwin 24, Colony- Henkel 21; Penalties: Kenai 6-12, Colony 7-14; Power plays: Kenai 0-4, Colony 0-3.
Wasilla 4, Kenai 2
The Warriors defeated the Kardinals Saturday in North Star Conference action in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys.
The win pushed the Warriors to 8-2 in the NSC and dropped the Kardinals to 7-2 in the NSC. The win also means Wasilla swept the head-to-head action with Kenai.
The Warriors grabbed a 4-0 lead in the game before Kenai fought back with a pair of goals in the third period.
Paul Drennen, assisted by Brad Fusaro and Owen Dukowitz, and Jed McGlasson, assisted by McKennan Steinbeck and Justin Gabriel, had the goals.
Lauren Baldwin had 31 saves for Kenai, which was outshot 35-20.
WARRIORS 4, KARDINALS 2
Kenai 0 0 2 2
Wasilla 3 1 0 4
First period 1. Wasilla, Dutcher (Johnston), 0:22; 2. Wasilla, Dargis (Palin), 6:25; 3. Wasilla, Welch (Palin, Friese), 14:32.
Second period 4. Wasilla, Dutcher (Kenworthy, Ingalls), 14:47.
Third period 5. Kenai, Drennan (Fusaro, Dukowitz), 8:15; 6. Kenai, McGlasson (Steinbeck, Gabriel), 11:18.
Shots on goal Kenai 10-5-520, Wasilla 13-12-1035.
Goalies Kenai, Baldwin (35 shots, 31 saves); Wasilla, Walker (20 shots, 18 saves).
Wasilla 3, Soldotna 0
The Warriors defeated the Stars on Saturday in NSC action to move to 9-2 in the conference, while Soldotna fell to 5-5.
Backed by goalie Micah Perletti, Soldotna came up with a solid defensive effort. Perletti faced 36 shots, while the Stars put 14 shots on Wasilla goalie Ronnie Walker.
Soldotna still had a good trip, though, defeating Colony on Thursday and Palmer on Friday.
Eagle River 4, Homer 2
Host Eagle River defeated Homer in nonconference hockey action Saturday.
The Clarion staff contributed to this report.
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