After weathering a second-period Kenai Central rally, Wasilla scored a late goal and added three more in the third to claim the North Star Conference title with a 7-1 win on Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"Wasilla is a tough team," Kenai head coach Pete Iverson said. "They capitalized every time we made a mistake."
"We played with a lot of patience," Warriors head coach Bill Sturdevant said. "We looked for our teammates well."
The Kardinals responded to two quick, second-period Wasilla goals with a power-play goal. Ryan Fusaro came from behind Wasilla's net and found Truckee LeMay in front. LeMay put a backhand shot past Wasilla goalie Chris Yaskus.
The goal ignited the Kards. They sustained good pressure, generating several scoring chances after the tally. After three consecutive Wasilla icings, the Warriors called timeout.
"I called timeout to get us settled down," Sturdevant said. "There was a point in the game where the momentum was going in Kenai's favor."
LeMay's goal cut Wasilla's lead to 3-1 with 10:51 to play in the second period.
"If they were able to get another one, it would have been a different game," Sturdevant said.
But the Warriors withstood Kenai's pressure.
"We had a good rally there," Iverson said. "We just couldn't find the back of the net."
Wasilla opened the second with a power-play goal 1:17 into the period. Still on the man advantage from Justin Herrmann's first-period penalty, Chancie Hanson put a shot on net from the right point. Keegan Remsen got his right leg pad on the puck but Michael Johnston put the rebound behind the Kenai net minder.
Wasilla struck a minute and a half later. Trent Wohlers won an offensive zone draw to defenseman Daniel Locke. He ripped a slap shot high-glove past Remsen.
Wohlers sealed the win for Wasilla late in the second. He skated into Kenai's zone down the left boards. He cut toward the goal and put an on-ice shot just inside the right goal post with nine seconds left in the period.
Sturdevant said his team sustained pressure deep in Kenai's end and his defensemen slowed down the Kardinals' fast-skating forwards.
Yaskus was another bright spot for Wasilla. After earning his first shutout of the season against Soldotna in the semifinals on Friday, he only allowed one goal on 24 shots against Kenai.
"Chris did a fantastic job," Sturdevant said.
The Warriors struck first late in the opening period. Jade Johnston received a pass in front of Remsen and buried a one-timer past the Kards goaltender with 1:50 to play.
Eric Marshall notched a quick strike less than three minutes into the third. Wohlers added his second of the game midway through the period on an unlucky bounce for Kenai. A shot from the point hit Wohlers' skate and deflected into the goal.
Jade scored his second of the game with just over a minute to play. Hanson skated into Kenai's zone from the left. He slid a backhand pass to Jade, who put a one-timer in the upper corner past Remsen's glove.
"It's a tough loss, but at the same time we're still playing hockey," Iverson said.
Kenai and Wasilla both earned state tournament berths. The tourney begins Thursday at the Curtis Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.
Though state will be a challenge, Iverson said his team showed it can skate with top-caliber teams like Wasilla.
For the Warriors, they need to keep playing as they have all season.
"I think we just have to continue with our style of play," Sturdevant said. "It's gotten us this far."
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