Wasilla's Track Palin burned Soldotna for a short-handed goal in the third period as the Stars dropped a North Star Conference hockey game 4-3 Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
In other games Saturday, Kenai defeated Colony 3-2 while Skyview, led by a hat trick from Josh Cho, won 9-3 in the late game against Palmer.
In Friday's games, Kenai defeated Wasilla 7-2, Colony beat Skyview 6-2 and Soldotna beat Palmer 12-0.
"We've had a solid effort the last several games, but it was the same story as it was against Colony (Thursday) great goaltending against us," said Soldotna coach Aaron Swanson following Saturday's contest.
Wasilla goaltender Ronnie Walker came up with several big saves down the stretch, and after the Stars pulled their goalie with under a minute to play looking for the equalizer, the Warriors were able to ice the puck once, then tie it up along the boards behind their goal to kill off the clock.
"We make it hard on ourselves that's what we've been doing all season," said Wasilla coach Eric Troisi. "We were up 2-0 and just had to play smart. Trying to get that third goal, we got too offensive-minded and gave up a couple easy ones."
Wasilla scored a pair of goals in the opening period. The Warriors got onto the scoreboard 8:47 into the game with a power-play tally. The Stars had just finished killing a two-man disadvantage when Palin, with Wasilla still one man up, beat Stars goaltender Kyle Kay.
Wasilla's Joe Barkley followed that up 22 seconds later with a breakaway goal for a 2-0 Wasilla lead.
The Stars got things going in the second period, though, as Brian Herring fired a rocket from just inside the blue line that found its way past Walker just 30 seconds into the period.
With the Stars applying constant pressure in the Wasilla zone, the Warriors packed the middle of the zone, but Soldotna's Kevin Laurion was able to find a gap, picking up a puck left by Willie Boyles in the slot and flipping a backhand shot past Walker at 6:55 of the period.
The Stars took their first lead of the game midway through the second period as Matt Vasilie was able to collect a nice pass from Herring on the Wasilla goaltender's doorstep and slip the puck into the goal for a 3-2 lead.
Wasilla answered with a power-play goal by Palin with 6:35 to play in the period, and the teams headed to the dressing room for the second intermission knotted at three goals apiece.
"We played really good," Vasilie said. "Penalties and a few defensive lapses in our zone hurt us."
Swanson said the Stars are still building toward the end of the regular season and the conference tournament.
"The kids are working hard to work within the system. To make the system work, you've got to have five guys working together," Swanson said.
The Stars will finish the regular season with games against Skyview and Kenai this week.
"We're playing well here, and that's a boost to our confidence. I think if we can play like this going into next week, we can get a couple of games there and roll with some momentum right into regions," Vasilie said.
WARRIORS 4, STARS 3
Wasilla 2 1 1 4
Soldotna 0 3 0 3
First period 1. Wasilla, Palin (Dargis, Dutcher), 8:47 pp; 2. Wasilla, Barkley (Troisi), 9:09. Penalties Wasilla 2 for 4:00, Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Second period 3. Soldotna, Herring (Vasilie), 0:30; 4. Soldotna, Laurion (Boyles), 6:55; 5. Soldotna, Vasilie (Herring), 7:52; 6. Wasilla, Palin (unassisted), 8:25 pp. Penalties Wasilla 2 for 4:00, Soldotna 3 for 6:00.
Third period 7. Wasilla, Palin (Welch), 8:07 sh. Penalties Wasilla 3 for 6:00, Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Shots Wasilla 10-6-622, Soldotna 7-16-831.
Goalies Wasilla, Walker (31 shots, 28 saves); Soldotna, Kay (22 shots, 18 saves).
Kenai 3, Colony 2
Goaltender Dan Silver turned aside four breakaways during a Kenai two-man advantage, and the Kardinals were able to hang on through a chippy third period for a North Star Conference victory.
"It was a very emotional, frustrating kind of game. Hats off to Colony they played like they wanted to be the No. 1 team in the region," said Kenai coach Nate Kiel. "We know we did some stupid things tonight, and we're going to have to clean up our game if we want to play for a region championship in two weeks."
Among the things the Kardinals would like to eliminate are the retaliatory penalties, particularly the ones incurred late in the game while trying to protect a narrow lead.
The Kardinals scored a pair of goals 1:26 apart in the first period. Trevor Baldwin was the first to figure a way to beat Colony goaltender Tyrel Henkel with a power-play goal 8:31 into the period, taking a feed from behind the Colony net and firing it home. Cody Carver and John McGlasson assisted on the play.
Kenai kept the pressure on and McGlasson tallied to make it 2-0 with assists from Daniel Christianson and Carver.
The Knights stayed right in it with a goal by Pauling late in the period as the Colony junior flung a shot toward the goal. The puck took an odd hop off Kenai goalie Dan Silver's equipment and snuck into the net.
Kenai was able to take advantage of an extended power play in the second period after the Knights were assessed a five-minute major penalty for a high stick after the whistle, as well as a pair or minor infractions incurred while trying to kill the major.
C.J. Henley netted the goal for the Kardinals on a two-man advantage, flinging a wrist shot past Henkel from the high slot. Dustin Moore and Nelson Kempf assisted on the play.
Silver was kept plenty busy during the power play, though, turning aside four Colony breakaways. The Knights twice split the Kenai defense with long passes, and also were able to twice connect with players as they left the penalty box.
"It was exciting getting all those shots and all those breakaways it kept me focused for the rest of the game," Silver said.
Colony scored late in the third period to cut Kenai's lead to one. The Knights, skating with a two-man advantage, scored when a shot from Austin Manelick found its way through a screen of players with 3:25 left in the game.
The Kardinals were able to kill off the rest of the penalty, and while the Knights pulled their goalie in the closing minute, they weren't able to tie it up.
Silver said he expects to see Colony again at the conference tournament and is certain his teammates will be better focused for the rematch.
"Next time we play, our heads are going to be in the game and we're going to hang another banner in our arena," Silver said.
KARDINALS 3, KNIGHTS 2
Colony 1 0 1 2
Kenai 2 1 0 3
First period 1. Kenai, Baldwin (Carver, Jo. McGlasson), 8:31 pp; 2. Kenai, Jo. McGlasson (Christianson, Carver), 9:57; 3. Colony, Pauling (unassisted), 13:21. Penalties Colony 1 for 2:00, Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Second period 4. Kenai, Henley (Moore, Kempf), 11:30 pp. Penalties Colony 8 for 19:00, Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Third period 5. Colony, Manelick (Pauling), 11:35 pp. Penalties Colony 1 for 12:00, Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Shots Colony 11-4-1025, Kenai 13-9-1032.
Goalies Colony, Henkel (32 shots, 29 saves); Kenai, Silver (25 shots, 23 saves).
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