The curse lives on.
However, not without a solid attempt at burying it.
Hoping to become the first team from the Kenai Peninsula to capture a victory in the opening round of the Class 4A state hockey tournament, Kenai played well but lacked its patented scoring touch when playing Service on Thursday morning.
Tied at 1 in the second period, the Cougars scored two quick goals and the Kardinals couldn’t recover in ending their eight-game winning streak with a 4-2 loss.
“We believed we could get it done,” Kenai coach Nate Kiel said by cell phone. “We just came up shy.”
Kenai still has a shot at fourth place, though, which would be its best finish ever, when they take on Lathrop at 8 a.m. today at the Wasilla Sports Complex. If the Kardinals win today, they will play for fourth place on Saturday.
“They were pretty disappointed in the locker room after,” Kiel said. “But they’re a resilient bunch and within just a little bit of time, they were out in the crowd watching hockey and ready to play again.”
Following a scoreless first period in which the Cougars outshot Kenai, 11-7, Service senior Zach Weimann made it 1-0 on a power play when he sent the puck past Kenai goalie Lauren Baldwin with 7:39 to play in the middle frame.
But the Kardinals’ knotted it back up 36 seconds later when senior Brad Fusaro deflected an Owen Dukowitz shot by Cougars’ goalie Eric Aasand.
“We felt we definitely had some good moments,” Kiel said. “We had some good scoring chances with some odd-man rushes ... We didn’t convert on those.”
Moments after Service failed to convert on a power play, the Cougars’ regained the lead when Logan Rounds scored on a wraparound at the 3:53 mark of the second and Corey Roy took a pass from behind the net and shot it by Baldwin for a 3-1 advantage only 21 seconds later.
Used to playing from behind, the Kardinals who managed only 24 shots were forced to do so yet again.
After two Cougar penalties handed Kenai a two-man advantage, senior Jed McGlasson sent a shot flying past Aasand, trimming the deficit to 3-2 near the end of the second.
But that’s as close as the Kardinals would come as Rounds added an unassisted, short-handed tally 3:56 into the third and Kenai wasn’t able to score again despite playing with an extra man in the closing minutes.
“Probably one of the biggest differences from the season and this game was that we were unable to convert on the odd-man rushes we had, the two-on-one’s,” Kiel explained. “We were unable to convert on those and we were unable to convert on our power plays.
“That’s a credit to their goaltending. Their goalie played well. Their defense played tough,” he added. “They played the body well on our guys and it kind of negated our advantage that we may have had in speed.”
The deficit could have been worse, however, if not for the consistent play Baldwin, who turned away 33 of 37 shots.
“She played an outstanding game,” he said. “They could have had a few more goals certainly if Lauren hadn’t come up with some tremendous saves for us.”
As for Lathrop, who lost 7-1 to South on Thursday, Kiel knows two things: his team skated to a 3-3 tie with the Malemutes in the Peninsula Ice Challenge earlier in the season; and Lathrop forward TJ Leibl, who collected a hat trick against the Kardinals, left the contest with South and didn’t return after suffering an injury.
But Kiel said Kenai starting defenseman Stephen Cronkhite also was injured and exited the Kardinals’ game early.
“I don’t know if those guys will be playing,” he said. “They both left the game and didn’t return.
“It will be interesting,” Kiel added. “The loser’s done. The winner plays on. If that’s not something to get amped up for, then I don’t know what is.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at matthew.carroll @peninsulaclarion.com.
COUGARS 4, KARDINALS 2
Service 0 3 1 4
Kenai 0 2 0 2
First period Penalties Service 3 for 6:00; Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Second period 1. Service, Weimann (Roy, Rounds), 7:21 (pp); 2. Kenai, Fusaro (Dukowitz, McGlasson), 7:57; 3. Service, Rounds (unassisted), 11:07; 4. Service, Roy (Thomas, Gray), 11:28; 5. Kenai, McGlasson (Howell, Fusaro), 13:13 (pp). Penalties Service 4 for 8:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period 6. Service, Rounds (unassisted), 3:56 (sh). Penalties Service 2 for 4:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00,
Shots on goal Service 11-15-1137; Kenai 7-8-924;
Goalies Service, Aasand (24 shots-22 saves); Kenai, Baldwin (37 shots-33 saves).
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