PALMER -- The Kenai Central Kardinals were flying up the ice and junior Zack Zulkanycz dove through the air. But ultimately it was the Palmer Moose who moved into the final round.
Zulkanycz cut Palmer's lead in half with a highlight-reel worthy goal midway through the third, but the Moose held on to score a 2-1 victory over the Kards during the North Star Conference semifinals on Friday. That ends the season for Kenai.
"Kenai just kept coming after us. This is the best I saw them play all season," Palmer head coach Brad Hanson said. "This was a real nice win (for us)."
Junior Miles George and senior Stephen Acher scored to help the Moose build a 2-0 lead during the first two periods, but Zulkanycz sparked his squad in the third. With the Kards pressuring the Palmer net, Zulkanycz dove in front of the crease. With his body completely off the ground and the puck in the air, Zulkanycz managed to get the blade of his stick on the puck to tip it into the upper right corner of the Moose net.
"That was a good one," Kenai head coach Pete Iverson said. "That was a big one, too."
Kenai outshot Palmer 27-20 in the game and 6-3 in the third period.
"It was an exciting game, back and forth," Iverson said. "We had plenty of opportunities. They were just able to capitalize on one more than we were."
George gave the Moose the lead midway through the first when he tipped a Thomas Morino pass from the blue line past Kenai goalie Keegan Remsen.
"They were coming after us," Hanson said. "It was nice to get that goal to gain momentum."
During the second period, defenseman Nick Reeves passed the puck through the neutral zone to set up a 2-on-1. Stephen Acher led the odd-man rush, and fired a shot from the right -wing circle that found its way into the upper shelf of the near side of the net.
Remsen faced only six official shots in the first and three in the third, but made big saves for the Kards.
"Keegan makes the rest of the team look good," Iverson said. "He saves our bacon all the time."
Kenai scored a 2-1 win over Colony in the quarterfinals on Thursday, before falling to the Moose 2-1 on Friday. Iverson applauded the work of his team during the tough conference tournament that had its first four games decided by identical 2-1 scores.
"The team really came together," Iverson said. "They supported each other. They're spirit was just awesome."
On Saturday, Palmer defeated Wasilla 5-3 for the NSC championship.
Palmer 2, Kenai 1
North Star Conference semifinals
Friday, MTA Palmer Ice Arena
First period -- 1. Palmer- George (Morino, Buness) 8:49.
Second period -- 2. Palmer- Acher (N. Reeves, Harrison) 5:37.
Third period -- 3. Kenai- Zulcanycz (Cunningham) 7:31.
Shots on goal: Kenai 10-11-6--27, Palmer 6-11-3--20; Saves: Kenai- Remsen 5-10-3--18, Palmer- A. Good 10-11-5--26.
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