Four different players had multigoal games as Kenai Central cruised to a 9-1 win over Homer in the first round of the North Star Conference tournament on Thursday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Zack Mese led the Kardinals with a hat trick. Justin Herrmann, Zack Zulkanycz and Russell Dukowitz each put two goals behind Homer net minder Luke Eckert.
"Our goal was to get as many shots as we could," Kards head coach Pete Iverson said. "The boys were shooting like crazy."
Kenai totaled 46 shots in the contest.
"The team skated hard," Zulkanycz said. "We knew we had to win this one to move on."
Kenai will take on second-seeded Palmer tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Sports Center. The winner, along with winner of the SoHi-Colony game, will play in the championship at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The NSC champions and runner-up each earn state tournament berths.
Zulkanycz started the scoring off just 50 seconds into the game when he ripped a shot past Eckert. Herrmann scored his first of the game just over midway through the first. He came from behind the Homer net on a wraparound and tucked the puck in the goal before Eckert could make the save.
Three minutes later, Mese found the back of the net. After taking a pass from Zulkanycz, Mese was one-on-one with Homer's Kyle Winser. Mese danced around him and was in alone on Eckert. He put the puck through Eckert's five-hole to give Kenai a 3-0 lead after one period of play.
Mese and Zulkancyz each added their second of the night in the second period. Like the first, Kenai started the second off with a quick strike. Just 36 seconds in, Morgan Cunningham rang a shot off of the post. Mese was there to gather the rebound and put in past Eckert. Toward the end of the period, Mese found a streaking Zulkanycz and slid him a pass. Zulkanycz one-timed the puck and found the back of the net.
Homer's lone goal came in the second. After Kenai goaltender Keegan Remsen made a save, Homer's Erik Rosencrans buried the rebound past him.
All of Kenai's third-period scoring came late. Herrmann started the four-goal burst with five and a half minutes to play. He came from behind Homer's net, cut in front of Eckert and put the biscuit over him for the goal.
Three minutes later Dukowitz notched his first goal. Dukowitz and Mese both buried with under a minute to play. Mese finished off his hat trick with 36 ticks on the clock and Dukowitz scored with 12.5 seconds remaining for his second of the game.
Despite the lopsided scoreboard, the Mariners kept their heads, Iverson said.
"Homer played with a lot of good sportsmanship," he said.
Immediately following the game, Kenai was thinking about Palmer.
"We just have look forward to tomorrow and try and get a win," Dukowitz said.
Palmer won both conference games against Kenai this year. They defeated the Kards 5-0 on Dec. 4 and edged out a 3-2 overtime victory on Jan. 21.
"It's going to be a challenging game," Iverson said of the Kenai-Palmer matchup. He said his immediate focus is to mentally prepare his squad for the game.
Kenai needs to use the Olympic-size ice at the Soldotna Sports Center in its favor, Zulkanycz said.
"We need to take advantage of the big ice that they're not used to," he said.
The larger ice surface allows the power play to spread out, Zulkanycz said. He said Kenai's faster skaters need to take advantage of how much more space they have on the ice.
Strong work ethic will be key, Dukowitz said.
"We just have to work as hard as we can."
Kardinals 9, Mariners 1
Homer 0 1 0 -- 1
Kenai 3 2 4 -- 9
First period -- 1. Kenai, Zulkanycz (J. Iverson), 0:50; 2. Kenai, Herrmann (LeMay, Fusaro), 9:03; 3. Kenai, Mese (Zulkanycz), 12:19. Penalties -- Homer 2 for 4:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Second period -- 4. Kenai, Mese (Zulkanycz, Cunningham), 0:36; 5. Homer, Rosencrans (Swanson), 9:44; 6. Kenai, Zulkanycz (Mese), 12:05. Penalties -- Homer 1 for 2:00.
Third period -- 7. Kenai, Herrmann (LeMay, J. Iverson), 9:24; 8. Kenai, Dukowitz (LeMay), 12:42; 9. Kenai, Mese (Cunningham); 14:24; 10. Kenai, Dukowitz (Cunningham, Zulkanycz); 14:48. Penalties -- Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal -- Homer 3-6-7 -- 16; Kenai 20-15-11 -- 46.
Goalies -- Homer, Eckert (46 shots, 37 saves); Kenai, Remsen (16 shots, 15 saves).
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