The Kenai Central High School hockey team skated to a 6-1 win Thursday in the opening round of the North Star Conference tournament at Brett Memorial Ice Arena in Wasilla.
North Star Conference Hockey Tournament
Thursday, Friday and Saturday
at Brett Memorial Ice Arena, Wasilla
No. 3 Kenai 6, No. 6 Palmer 1
No. 5 Skyview 5, No. 4 Wasilla 3
Kenai vs. No. 2 Soldotna, 5:30 p.m.
Skyview vs. No. 1 Colony, 7:45 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
In Thursday's late game, Wayne Maxwell set up Chad Moore and Jon Allen for third period goals, then scored the final goal of the game himself, to give the Skyview Panthers a thrilling 5-3 victory over Wasilla.
"Everybody was hungry," said Kenai coach Brian Gabriel Sr. "They were feeding off each other. One line would go out and get three or four scoring chances, and then the next line would see that and go get three or four chances of their own."
With the win, the Kardinals advance to tonight's 5:30 p.m. semifinal, a rematch with the Soldotna Stars.
"I was just nervous all day," Gabriel Sr. said. "I wanted that rematch with SoHi, and I didn't want us to give one away to Palmer. I don't know why I was so nervous. The kids were loose."
The Kardinals got goals from Billy Johnson, Brandon Fortney, Boone Hall and Jack Darsey to build a 4-0 lead after two periods.
Palmer put one past Kenai goalie Steven Campanella early in the third period, but Zach Hicks netted two goals in the closing minutes to give the Kardinals their five-goal margin of victory.
Gabriel Sr. was pleased to see a balanced scoring effort from the Kardinals.
"The Hicks-Fortney-(Billy) Forrest line had three goals, so we had some real good balance," Gabriel Sr. said.
The Kardinals also had a boost from Darsey's return to the ice.
"That was a big help," Gabriel Sr. said. "We can create some more chances up front when we know he's back there."
The Kardinals pummeled the Palmer net with 49 shots while Campanella turned aside seven of the eight Palmer shots he faced.
"There were a couple of times in the second period where we did get a little sloppy in our own zone, and he was there to make the save," Gabriel Sr. said. "He showed he was still in the game."
The Skyview Panthers watched their 2-0 first period lead evaporate when the Warriors netted a pair of goals, one of them short-handed, in the second period.
After fending off a Wasilla flurry early in the third period, Maxwell found Moore midway through the period to break the tie.
Allen's tally restored Skyview's two-goal advantage, but Wasilla threatened that lead with its third goal of the night late in the period.
Maxwell gave the Panthers an insurance goal with under two minutes left to play.
With the win, Skyview advances to today's 7:45 p.m. semifinal against the top-seeded Colony Knights.
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