Soldotna's Spencer Walgnbach and Kenai's Cameron Borchgrevink tangle for the puck in the third period Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
For most of the season, Kenai has flourished late in the game, overcoming third-period deficits and pulling out improbable wins.
With emotions running high on senior night, the Kardinals reversed that trend.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Seniors Owen Dukowitz, Brad Fusaro and Jed McGlasson staked Kenai to an early 3-0 lead and each added another tally in leading the Kardinals to a 6-0 victory and regular season sweep of archrival Soldotna at the Soldotna Sports Center on Friday night.
“The seniors came out fired up and took the early lead, which is something that’s evaded us in games. We’re a third-period team,” Kenai coach Nate Kiel said. “We know we can turn it on at the end too many come-from-behind victories this year, though.
“So, it was nice to come out strong in the beginning and just take it away.”
With the North Star Conference title and No. 1 seed in this weekend’s conference tournament already secure, the Kardinals’ ever-improving play continued after emerging from Christmas break a bit rusty.
“Last year we went 3-7 in the last 10 games coming into regions,” said McGlasson, who also had two assists. “This year we’re coming in strong.”
The driving force behind Kenai’s recent success has been the nearly impenetrable play of senior goalie Lauren Baldwin, who denied all 27 shots she faced and closed out her regular season career against Soldotna with an unblemished record.
“Lauren, of course, played a phenomenal game. We put a bunch of rookies out there in the third period but we let her stay,” Kiel explained. “She’s undefeated against SoHi in her career and so she said she wanted to keep that record intact. She had a lot to prove, as well.”
All the seniors did, really.
The defense rarely allowed the Stars into its zone and the offense, as usual, took care of business.
With 7:55 left in the opening period, Fusaro’s shot off a McGlasson centering pass was saved by Soldotna goaltender Micah Perletti but Dukowitz was in perfect position to backhand the puck over the senior goalie’s shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
Only 1:34 later, Fusaro who had three assists sent the puck around the boards where McGlasson retrieved it behind the net, cut in front and fed his linemate in the middle for an easy 2-0 advantage.
McGlasson later made it 3-0 when he added a power-play tally of his own in the closing minutes of the first.
“They came out and came to play,” Kiel said. “They were just not going to be denied this night.”
The senior trio each added another goal and Dukowitz collected a pair of assists during a second-period charge that extended the lead to 6-0.
Fusaro had a simple explanation for the commanding victory.
“The past two years (on) senior night SoHi beats us,” he said. “Not this year.”
“We had an upset, I think, the last two times we played SoHi at the end of our regular season for the last two years. They’ve beaten us,” he said. “So, the seniors had a lot to prove and come for (Friday) and they said they were not going to get beat (Friday).”
Kenai's Stephen Cronkhite and Soldotna's Eli Waldrip scuffle in the second period Friday. Both received penalties.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Playing without junior forward Ben Christianson, who was suspended for the game after receiving a game disqualification in the last contest, the Stars struggled offensively, unleashing only five shots in the first period.
“Without having him in our lineup made us juggle our lines around and the chemistry’s not there for the lines when you have to juggle them around,” SoHi coach Aaron Swanson said. “He’s definitely a big part of our offensive attack. And without him and then juggling lines around, it just made it a challenge for us all night.”
Despite losing all four matchups with the Kardinals this season, Swanson still hopes to meet them again in the conference tournament.
“Absolutely. Because if we do, that means it will be in the championship game,” he said. “We’d be real excited to play them again.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
KARDINALS 6, STARS 0
Soldotna 0 0 0 0
Kenai 3 3 0 0
First period 1. Kenai, Dukowitz (Fusaro, McGlasson), 7:05; 2. Kenai, Fusaro (McGlasson), 8:39; 3. Kenai, McGlasson (Fusaro, Howell), 11:17 (pp). Penalties Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Second period 4. Kenai, Fusaro (Dukowitz), 0:20; 5. Kenai, Dukowitz (Fusaro), 4:57 (pp); 6. Kenai, McGlasson (Dukowitz), 10:09. Penalties Soldotna 3 for 6:00; Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Third period Penalties Soldotna 4 for 16:00, Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal Soldotna 5-7-1527; Kenai 16-13-1039.
Goalies Soldotna, Perletti (25 shots-20 saves), Kendrick (14 shots, 13 saves); Kenai, Baldwin (27 shots-27 saves).
Soldotna 2, Homer 1
The Stars picked up a Northern Lights Conference victory over the Mariners on Saturday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The Stars took a 2-0 lead behind goals from Ben Christianson and Jake Bishop. Homer was then only able to get one goal, from Keith Bell, off Soldotna’s Micah Perletti.
Perletti had 16 saves, while Homer’s Ben Miller had 31 saves.
STARS 2, MARINERS 1
Homer 0 1 0 1
Soldotna 1 1 0 2
First period 1. Soldotna, Christianson (Waldrip), 6:04. Penalties none.
Second period 2. Soldotna, Bishop (Glick), 8:33; 3. Homer, Bell (Lewis), 12:48. Penalties Homer 3 for 6:00, Soldotna 3 for 6:00.
Third period none. Penalties Homer 5 for 10:00.
Shots on goal Homer 7-6-417, Soldotna 14-10-933.
Goalies Homer, Miller (33 shots, 31 saves); Soldotna, Perletti (17 shots, 16 saves).
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