"Can I say, 'solid,' one more time?" Soldotna hockey coach Pat Nolden asked after the Stars defeated Kenai Central 4-0 Friday in North Star Conference play at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"Talk about a defensively solid performance -- Keith Herring and Scott Laurion, they never panicked, moved the puck, reversed the puck, what more can you ask for?" Nolden said. "Then Herring gets (a big goal and an assist) that gives us that punch."
Herring was in on Soldotna's first goal of the game, notching an assist along with Peter Kim on a tally by Derek Martin 2:19 into the first period.
With the Stars turning in such a solid effort on defense, it would be all goalie Egan Gleason would need to spoil Kenai's senior night festivities and record the shutout -- keeping the normally boisterous Kardinals fans fairly subdued throughout the game.
"It feels good not to have that tenacious Kenai crowd shouting at me," Gleason said after his team wrapped up the top spot in the NSC tournament. "I was just focused on shutting them down and not giving anything up."
The Kardinals also turned in a solid effort in their last game before the conference tournament next week at Brett Memorial Ice Arena in Wasilla.
"We did pretty good the first two periods," said Kenai's Zack Hicks, "but in the third period, we fell apart defensively and let them get a couple easy goals. We did pretty good as a team, just a couple mistakes cost us."
"Both teams were stepping up at the blue line and taking away speed through the neutral zone," Martin said. "It was a pretty evenly matched game. I'm looking forward to the next game with them (possibly at the conference tournament)."
Kenai coach Brian Gabriel Sr. said the Kardinals needed a goal to get their seventh man into the game to help swing the momentum.
"It really takes a goal to get the crowd in the mode," Gabriel Sr. said. "Kenai fans, in my opinion, are the best fans in high school hockey. Kenai will come out every time we play. When we're up in the Valley, we have more fans than the team we're playing. Our team feeds off that. I told the guys, 'Let's get a goal, and get the crowd in it.' It would have made a difference."
The Kardinals did have some chances to even things up. Adrian Borchgrevink banged a shot off the crossbar with just under four minutes left in the first period, and the Kardinals hit the post on a couple of other occasions.
"Against SoHi, those are the opportunities you have to convert on," Gabriel Sr. said.
Those opportunities decreased for the Kardinals as the game progressed, a trend Gabriel Sr. said started after the Christmas break, and a problem for which he's still seeking an answer. Kenai put 14 shots on net in the first period, but had only 11 shots in the second and third periods combined.
Soldotna's Keith Herring rides a Kenai player into the boards Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
"If anybody can figure it out, if there's any hockey gurus out there, they can give me a call," Gabriel Sr. said.
The Stars did have it figured out, putting 14 shots on goal in the third period after totaling 13 through the first two. Herring hit a slap shot from the left point though a screen to beat Kenai goalie Daniel Silver 1:54 into the third period. Laurion and Daniel Potton assisted on the play.
"That took a lot of the pressure off the team. Everyone could take a breath and relax a little bit," Herring said of giving the Stars a two-goal cushion.
Martin added his second goal of the game, muscling his way to the Kenai goal, at 4:42 of the period, assisted by Peter Kim. Matt Vasilie finished off the scoring with 4:47 left to play, assisted by Ben Tikka.
Meanwhile, Gleason was putting together a solid night between the pipes for the Stars.
"It's the Egan factor," Nolden said. "If we have a breakdown, he's right there. He's not standing on his head, he's just solid."
One of the key factors for Gleason was that he didn't have to deal with nearly as much traffic in front of his net as Silver was seeing at the other end of the ice.
"They were all just textbook stops, and that's because of our defensemen," Gleason said.
Herring said the Stars would be feeling good about things heading into the conference tournament after playing well despite missing several players for disciplinary reasons.
"We had some adversity this week, but it adds to our confidence that we pulled through," Herring said.
STARS 4, KARDINALS 0
Soldotna 1 0 3 -- 4
Kenai 0 0 0 -- 0
First period -- 1. Soldotna, Martin (K. Herring, Mills), 2:19. Penalties -- Soldotna 2 for 4:00, Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- none. Penalties -- Soldotna 1 for 2:00, Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period -- 2. Soldotna, K. Herring (Laurion, Potton), 1:54; 3. Soldotna, Martin (Kim), 4:42; 4. Soldotna, Vasilie (Tikka), 10:13. Penalties -- Soldotna 3 for 6:00, Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Shots -- Soldotna 8-5-14--27, Kenai 14-4-7--25.
Goalies -- Soldotna, Gleason (25 shots, 25 saves); Kenai, D. Silver (27 shots, 23 saves).
Soldotna 8, Skyview 3
The Stars wrapped up an undefeated season in the North Star Conference with a victory over the Panthers Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Johnny Mills had three goals in the game for Soldotna, including two in the first period as the Stars jumped out to a 3-0 advantage.
Matt Vasilie added two goals for the Stars, while Derek Martin, Peter Kim and Keith Herring also scored.
For Skyview, Jeremy Mercier, Daniel Christianson and Brandon Sachwitz had goals.
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