The Kenai Central High School hockey team got up early and kept the pressure on, bumping Skyview from the North Star Conference tournament with an 8-3 win Thursday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Also Thursday, Colony opened the tournament with a 5-1 win over Palmer and Soldotna defeated Homer 3-2 in the late game.
The Kardinals will face Colony today at 5:30 p.m., and Soldotna will play top-seeded Wasilla, which had a bye through the first round, at 8 p.m.
“If things go your way right off the bat, that gets you going for the rest of the game,” said Kenai’s Nelson Kempf. “We got lots of shots, we passed the puck that was big.”
Indeed, the Kardinals fired 61 shots on Skyview goalie Gabe O’Lena, while the Panthers tested Kenai’s Ben Boycott with 16 shots, 10 of those in the third period.
Michael Drobnick returned to Kenai’s lineup and put the Kardinals on the board 8:36 into the game. With Kenai killing a penalty, Drobnick intercepted a puck at the Skyview blue line and was able to go upstairs off his backhand to beat O’Lena.
Drobnick scored a hat trick in the game, but also detracted from Kenai’s effort when he was assessed a game misconduct in the third period.
“These guys worked their butts off,” Kenai assistant coach Craig Wortham said. “They did a really good job. They came out and played hard.”
Kenai made it 2-0 with 3:59 left in the period as Jed McGlasson fed Owen Dukowitz in the slot. Kegan Kiel also earned an assist on the play.
McGlasson and Dukowitz continued to cause problems for the Panthers in the second period as the duo earned assists on two more Kenai goals, scored by Kiel and Brad Fusaro. Drobnick also scored his second goal of the game in the period, assisted by Kempf.
The Panthers got on the board in exciting fashion as Scott Ralston was taken down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. Ralston deked to his right, then slid the puck back to his left before slipping it off his backhand past Boycott.
Drobnick opened the third period with his third goal, but was shown the gate shortly thereafter. Drobnick, who has had problems staying disciplined this season, was on the receiving end of a big hit from a Skyview player. Drobnick then followed the Skyview player all the way across the ice and back to the Skyview bench. The Skyview player didn’t take the bait, and Drobnick was issued a 10-minute misconduct, then sent off the ice. Wortham was unsure as to Drobnick’s status for today’s game.
Skyview then netted two goals before the Kardinals were able to regroup. Ryan Mercier netted a shorthanded goal for the Panthers as he intercepted a puck at the Kenai blue line and skated in alone on Boycott at 6:18 of the period.
Mercier got the Panthers another goal closer 3:40 later as he was sprung on a rinkwide, blue line to blue line pass from Ralston. Mercier made a nice touch to put the puck away, and Cody Haberman also received an assist on the play.
The Kardinals took a timeout to settle things down, and the move paid immediate dividends as Fusaro scored seven seconds later. McGlasson assisted on the goal.
Dean Howell wrapped up the scoring for the Kardinals, scoring on a high shot with just under a minute to play with an assist from Kempf.
Skyview’s Paddy Iverson said his team left everything it had on the ice.
“We started slow in the first and second, but we worked our way back back up. We had some good rushes at the end,” Iverson said. “Everybody wanted it more (in the third period).”
Iverson said that despite the hurdles the Panthers have faced this season, his teammates would keep their heads up.
“I was glad to see us come together at the end,” Iverson said.
The Kardinals will see if they can extend their season another week. The winner of tonight’s semifinal against Colony will advance to the tournament championship Saturday and claim a berth in the state tournament in Fairbanks next week.
“I hope we come out energized, feeling good and full of fire,” Kempf said.
Soldotna 3, Homer 2
Holly Perkins scored the game winner with 4:22 left in the game and Soldotna defeated Homer.
Perkins was able to get her stick on a loose puck in the crease and slip it just under the pads of Homer goaltender Ben Miller. Brian Herring and Kevin Garske assisted on the play.
After a scoreless first period, the Stars found the back of the net 8:16 into the second period as Timo Gleason poked a rebound past Miller. Sam Evanoff and Anton Olson assisted on the play.
“The game was a little slow,” Soldotna coach Aaron Swanson said of the first period. “It seemed like we were nervous to get going, afraid to make a mistake. No one really wanted to take advantage of anything, but as the game wore on, both teams got into a flow, and that opened things up.”
The Mariners tied the game just 1:37 into the third period when Justin Adams intercepted a puck in the Soldotna zone and roofed his shot past Soldotna goaltender Micah Perletti.
Soldotna came right back with a goal from Herring at 3:14 of the period. Herring’s shot from the right circle deflected off Miller, and Clayton Glick was credited with the assist.
Adams again tied the game at 6:25, finishing off a two-on-one rush with a shot from the left circle. Drake Piper assisted on the play.
Perletti finished with 18 saves for the Stars while Miller was called on to make 30 saves for the Mariners.
Colony 5, Palmer 1
The Moose played tough through the first two periods before the Knights were able to put the game away in the final period.
“In the third period, we realized it was either now or never. You’ve got to win or you’re out,” said Colony coach Dale Mattson. “We started passing the puck better, took more quality shots and started playing with intensity.”
The Knights proceeded to score three goals over the final 15 minutes to knock out a feisty Palmer team.
Austin Manelick led the Knights with two goals and an assist while Ryan Pauling netted a goal and three assists. Blake Huppert picked up a goal and two assists, and Alex Lund scored a goal for the Knights. Tyrel Henkel was credited with seven saves.
Michael Hanson scored for the Moose in the first period, and goalie Jim Isaacs finished with 42 saves.
“Tomorrow (Friday) obviously is a big game. Our seniors this year have never made it to state, so they’re real excited about their last opportunity for that,” Mattson said.
KNIGHTS 5, MOOSE 1
Palmer 1 0 0 1
Colony 2 0 3 5
First period 1. Colony, Manelick (Pauling), 4:19; 2. Palmer, Hanson (Richards), 7:22; 3. Pauling (Manelick, B. Huppert), 12:59. Penalties none.
Second period none. Penalties Colony 3 for 6:00.
Third period 4. Colony, Manelick (Pauling), 5:02 (pp); 5. Colony, Lund (B. Huppert, Pauling), 8:15; 6. Colony, B. Huppert (unassisted),11:56. Penalties Palmer 2 for 4:00, Colony 1 for 2:00.
Shots Palmer 3-2-38, Colony 16-11-2747.
Goalies Palmer, Isaacs (47 shots, 42 saves); Colony, Henkel (8 shots, 7 saves).
KARDINALS 8, PANTHERS 3
Skyview 0 1 2 3
Kenai 2 3 3 8
First period 1. Kenai, Drobnick (unassisted), 8:36 (sh); 2. Kenai, Dukowitz (McGlasson, Kiel), 11:01. Penalties Kenai 2 for 4:00, Skyview 3 for 6:00.
Second period 3. Kenai, Drobnick (Kempf), 2:50; 4. Skyview, Ralston (unassisted), 6:17 (penalty shot); 5. Kenai, Kiel (McGlasson, Dukowitz), 9:26; 6. Kenai, Fusaro (McGlasson, Dukowitz), 10:27. Penalties Kenai 2 for 4:00, Skyview 1 for 10:00.
Third period 7. Kenai, Drobnick (Kempf), 1:10; 8. Skyview, Mercier (unassisted), 6:18 (sh); 9. Skyview, Mercier (Ralston, Haberman), 9:58 (pp); 10. Kenai, Fusaro (McGlasson), 10:05; 11. Kenai, Howell (Kempf), 14:06. Penalties Skyview 1 for 2:00, Kenai 3 for 14:00.
Shots Skyview 2-4-1016; Kenai 22-24-1561.
Goalies Skyview, O’Lena (61 shots, 53 saves); Kenai, Boycott (16 shots, 13 saves).
STARS 3, MARINERS 2
Homer 0 0 2 2
Soldotna 0 1 2 3
First period none. Penalties Homer 2 for 4:00, Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Second period 1. Soldotna, Gleason (S. Evanoff, Olson), 8:16. Penalties Homer 1 for 2:00, Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Third period 2. Homer, Adams (unassisted), 1:37; 3. Soldotna, Herring (Glick), 3:14; 4. Homer, Adams (Piper), 6:25; 5. Soldotna, Perkins (Herring, Garske), 4:22. Penalties Homer 3 for 26:00, Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Shots Homer 6-5-920, Soldotna 7-10-1633.
Goalies Homer, Miller (33 shots, 30 saves); Soldotna, Perletti (20 shots, 18 saves).
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