The Wasilla hockey team defeated Kenai Central 2-1 Saturday at the Palmer Ice Rink to win the North Star Conference Tournament and snap Kenai's two-year run atop the tournament.
The Kardinals did earn a trip to the state tournament in Fairbanks Friday with a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory over Soldotna in the semifinals. The season is over for the Stars. It will be Kenai's fourth trip to state in the past five years.
Kenai fell behind early in Saturday's championship game as Wasilla scored its two goals in the first five minutes of the game. Adam Friese touched home a pass from Tanner Dutcher, then Andrew Tumbleson scored unassisted with 10:59 left in the first period to put the Kardinals in a big hole.
The Kardinals would go on to outshoot the Warriors 40-21 in trying to get the game back to even, but goalie Ronnie Walker's 39 saves carried the day for Wasilla.
After putting 19 shots on goal without a score in the second period, Kenai finally broke through with 5:57 left in the game. Nelson Kempf scored on an assist by John McGlasson and C.J. Henley.
The Kardinals got a power play with 3:57 left in the game, but could not solve Walker. Kenai goalie Dan Silver finished with 19 saves.
Kenai was able to complete a comeback and avoid an upset Friday against the Stars. Jed McGlasson started out the scoring for Kenai in the first period, but Matt Vasilie tied the game in the first period by hustling and catching Kenai in a line change for an unassisted goal.
The Stars then took the lead in the second period on a short-handed goal. Brian Herring deflected a shot by Henley, then pounced on the loose puck and rushed down the ice to score unassisted.
Kenai tied the game with 6:10 to play when Cody Carver scored on assists from John McGlasson and Henley. Then, with 1:57 to play, John McGlasson, on an assist from Carver, potted the goal that sent Kenai to state.
"It was definitely a very hard loss," Soldotna coach Aaron Swanson said. "Any time a loss puts you out of the tournament, it's going to be hard. At the same time, I'm very happy with the effort we put forth."
The official stats had Kenai taking 36 shots to Soldotna's 14. Soldotna goalie Kyle Kay made 33 saves to keep his team in the game. Ben Boycott had 12 saves for the Kardinals.
"Kenai's very good at taking shots from all angles," Swanson said. "Kyle had a good game controlling rebounds and the defense did a good job clearing the puck."
Soldotna was getting thumped by Kenai at the beginning of the season, but lost to Kenai by one goal that last two times the teams matched up.
"We improved quite a bit from the beginning to the end of the year," Swanson said. "I'm proud of how hard we worked throughout the season."
KARDINALS 3, STARS 2
Soldotna 1 1 0 2
Kenai 1 0 2 3
First period 1. Kenai, Jed McGlasson (Dukowitz, Drobnick), 8:56; 2. Soldotna, Vasilie (un.), 10:13. Penalties Soldotna 2 for 4:00, Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Second period 3. Soldotna, Herring (un.), 12:37. Penalties Soldotna 3 for 6:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Third period 4. Kenai, Carver (John McGlasson, Henley), 8:50; 5. Kenai, John McGlasson (Carver), 13:03. Penalties Soldotna 2 for 4:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Soldotna 6-7-114; Kenai 14-13-936.
Goalies Soldotna, Kay (36 shots, 33 saves); Kenai, Boycott (14 shots, 12 saves).
WARRIORS 2, KARDINALS 1
Wasilla 2 0 0 2
Kenai 0 0 1 1
First period 1. Wasilla, Friese (Dutcher), 3:19; 2. Wasilla, Tumbleson (un.), 4:01. Penalties Wasilla 4 for 11:00; Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Second period none. Penalties Wasilla 1 for 2:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period 3. Kenai, Kempf (John McGlasson, Henley), 9:03. Penalties Wasilla 2 for 4:00; Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal Wasilla 6-7-821; Kenai 8-19-1340.
Goalies Wasilla, Walker (40 shots, 39 saves); Kenai, Silver (21 shots, 19 saves).
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