It wasn't pretty.
In fact, Friday's Region III/4A high school hockey tournament semifinal between Soldotna and Kenai Central at the Soldotna Sports Center at times resembled a WWF steel cage match rather than a hockey game, with a crowd that at times was on the verge of turning into a mosh pit to boot.
Soldotna steamrolled the Kardinals in the first period, throwing six goals up on the scoreboard before the first intermission on its way to a 10-3 win,clinching a trip to the Alaska School Activities Association State 4A Hockey Championship starting Thursday at the Sports Center.
"This game was huge. We had so much motivation and so much emotion," said Soldotna's Eric Newby. "We got the job done. The only thing that matters is we're going on and they're going home.
"Any day you beat the Kardinals, it's a good day."
The Stars had more than enough motivation, with newspaper clips of last year's semifinal upset win by the Kardinals finding their way onto the Soldotna locker room bulletin board -- just in case the Stars had trouble remembering that feeling on their own.
"There was no way it was going to happen again this year," Newby said.
Dustin Sena put the Stars on the board at 4:26 of the first period, assisted by Billy Smith. Daniel Potton made it 2-0 at 7:18 of the period, blasting a slap shot from the left circle just under the crossbar. Johnny Mills assisted on the play.
Kenai pulled starting goaltender Brandon Fortney in favor of Ryan Dukowitz after Potton's goal, but the Stars needed just 10 seconds to pump in another puck. Smith potted the goal with a hard slapper from the left circle, assisted by David Newby.
"We burned a timeout just looking for a tourniquet to stop the bleeding," Kenai coach Brian Gabriel Sr. said.
The Stars didn't give the Kardinals any time to lick their wounds, though. Smith set up Eric Newby for a shot from the slot that beat Dukowitz at 8:21 of the period, and followed that with an unassisted tally at 9:52 of the period to give the Stars a 5-0 lead.
Fortney returned to the Kenai goal, but was met with another Soldotna goal, this one a power-play tally by Derek Martin, assisted by Dan Jensen, at 10:25 of the period.
"The kids were prepared, and we came out explosive," Soldotna coach Pat Nolden said. "We made a statement, we carried the momentum through the game and we're moving on."
In the second and third periods, the Kardinals did all they could to try to slow down Soldotna's skaters.
"We came out kind of flat, and we didn't come out hitting," Kenai's Billy Forrest said. "We can't play wide open with SoHi. They've got a lot of talent."
The Stars were happy to muck and grind with the Kardinals, though, and tight checking degenerated into clutching, grabbing, shoving, cross-checking and punching, without much in the way of penalties issued by the officials.
"Kenai doesn't die easy," Nolden said.
A shot gets past Kenai goalie Ryan Dukowitz during the first period against Soldotna Friday night.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
The Kardinals were able to score two goals early in the second period. Adrian Borchgrevink tallied on a Kenai power play with a big shot from the right circle to beat Soldotna goalie Egan Gleason at 4:30 of the second period, assisted by Brian Gabriel Jr.
Kenai scored again at 7:16 of the period. Gleason stopped a wide angle Kenai shot, but the puck dropped down and landed on the goal line between his legs.
Gleason couldn't locate the puck, though, and Gabriel Jr. made a sprawling dive toward the goal, sending the puck, along with Gleason and himself, into the back of the net.
The Stars never let the Kardinals get any closer. Peter Kim fed Martin for a goal with 4:29 left in the second period, and Smith opened the third period with a short-handed goal at the three-minute mark, assisted by Eric Newby.
Martin made it 9-2 just 42 seconds later, assisted by Jensen.
Owen Brewer added a goal for the Kardinals with 5:01 to play, tucking home a breakaway set up with a pass from Borchgrevink.
Nels Hansen scored the final goal of the game for the Stars, squeezing off a shot after Jensen was able to win a faceoff in the Kenai zone and send the puck his way.
"This has been hanging over our heads for a whole year," David Newby said. "The six seniors on this team weren't going to end our high school careers losing to Kenai."
Gabriel Sr. said the game would serve as motivation for his squad for next year, particularly the freshmen.
"That lit a fire under them. They've got three more years to come after SoHi," Gabriel Sr. said.
"Hopefully, I can come back next year and watch these guys throttle SoHi," Fortney said.
STARS 10, KARDINALS 3
Kenai 0 2 1 -- 3
Soldotna 6 1 3 -- 10
First period -- 1. Soldotna, Sena (Smith), 4:26; 2. Soldotna, Potton (Mills), 7:18; 3. Soldotna, Smith (D. Newby), 7:28; 4. Soldotna, E. Newby (Smith), 8:21; 5. Soldotna, Smith (unassisted), 9:52; 6. Soldotna, Martin (Jensen), 10:25 (pp). Penalties -- Kenai 1 for 2:00, Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Second period -- 7. Kenai, Borchgrevink (B. Gabriel Jr.), 4:30 (pp); 8. Kenai, B. Gabriel Jr. (unassisted), 7:16; 9. Soldotna, Martin (Kim), 10:31. Penalties -- Kenai 4 for 8:00, Soldotna 5 for 10:00.
Third period -- 10. Soldotna, Smith (E. Newby), 3:00 (sh); 11. Soldotna, Martin (Jensen), 3:42; 12. Kenai, Brewer (Borchgrevink), 10:01; 13. Soldotna, Hansen (Jensen), 10:28. Penalties -- Kenai 5 for 26:00, Soldotna 4 for 16:00.
Shots -- Kenai 6-7-7--20, Soldotna 12-8-7--27.
Goalies -- Kenai, Fortney (22 shots, 15 saves), Dukowitz (5 shots, 2 saves); Soldotna, Gleason (20 shots, 17 saves).
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