PALMER -- Of any regular season series in the North Star Conference, none was more close than Soldotna-Wasilla. The teams skated in overtime twice in 2010-11, with one game ending in a Soldotna win and another in a tie.
Friday, Wasilla finally captured that elusive victory over the Stars.
Zach Korsmo and Chancie Hanson scored, and the Warriors outshot Soldotna 22-11 en route to a 2-1 victory during the NSC semifinals at the MTA Palmer Ice Arena.
"Obviously, to get that monkey off our back and beat a team we've had battles with all year long is big," Wasilla head coach Bill Sturdevant said.
Dalton Pearson scored a late goal for Soldotna, but the Stars were unable to get the equalizer to send another Soldotna-Wasilla game into overtime.
"We came into this tournament knowing every team was going to be tight. We figured this game would be low-scoring, just like it was," Soldotna head coach Aaron Swanson said. "It was a matter of who could win the extra battles to get that extra goal."
Korsmo hammered home a rebound of a Mike Edwards shot to give the Warriors the early lead in the first. Edwards took the puck between the circles and set up for his attempt. Soldotna goalie William Granger was able to make the save, but Korsmo crashed the net to knock in the loose puck.
"That's his bread and butter. He's done it all year," Sturdevant said of Korsmo. "He has a knack for finding that puck in close."
In the second, with the Warriors skating with the two-man advantage, a Soldotna defenseman dove to the ice to block a Hanson shot. Hanson was able to pick up the lose puck, skate around the defenseman and find an open piece of net. Sturdevant said that score was representative of Wasilla's work on special teams in practice.
"We worked on our power play this week, trying to get a different look ," Sturdevant said. "You could definitely tell the way we were moving our puck, the extra work showed."
With less than three minutes remaining in the third, Pearson picked up a loose puck and fired home a shot from the left wing circle.
"He's one of our guys we count on to make big plays," Swanson said. "And he definitely came up big to get us on the board there at the end of the game to make it that much more interesting."
Granger stopped 20 shots in the loss, and Eastham had 10 saves in the win.
"Both goalies played real well, made some big saves," Swanson said.
Eastham scored the win in the net for the Warriors after missing about a month due to injury.
"I could see he was getting more and more comfortable as the game went on," Sturdevant said.
Sturdevant also credited the work of his defense in front of Eastham.
"We had some nice blocked shots," Sturdevant said. "Dylan McRee and some nice blocked shots right at the blue line, Mike Edwards had some nice blocks."
With the win, Wasilla earned one of the conference's two state tournament berths and moved into the NSC championship game. The loss ends the season for the Stars.
Wasilla 2, Soldotna 1
North Star Conference semifinals
Friday, MTA Palmer Ice Arena
First period -- 1. Wasilla- Korsmo (Edwards) 4:41.
Second period -- 2. Wasilla- Ch. Hanson (Wil. Harren, McRee) pp 8:52.
Third period -- 3. Soldotna- Dal. Pearson (Stinnett) 2:4.
Shots on goal -- Soldotna 4-4-3--11, Wasilla 7-10-5--22.
Saves -- Soldotna- Granger 6-9-5--20, Wasilla- Eastham 4-4-2--10.
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