The Nikiski Bulldogs hockey program eclipsed a milestone Saturday, going deeper into the Alaska School Activities Association's Greatland Conference Tournament than ever before.
The Bulldogs beat Delta 5-4 in overtime Saturday at the Brett Memorial Arena in Wasilla to win the third-place game.
"One of the things that we're really pleased with, we did set a regular-season record for nine wins," said Bulldogs coach Al Anderson. "When we came into the season, our goal also was to set the school record for tournament finish, and we attained that goal."
The Bulldogs were matched up with the Delta Junction Huskies after a 9-1 loss to No. 1 seed Houston in semifinal play Friday night. Houston went on to lose to Monroe Catholic of Fairbanks 2-1 in the state title game.
Nikiski opened up the Saturday game against the Huskies with an early lead, scoring twice in the first period.
Junior Nick Russell was the first to get on the scoreboard. Russell scored with 11:46 left in the first period off a pass from Josh Pepper. Brett Allemann notched the next score, sending an assist from Zach Womack and Josh Winters over the crease at 10:34 in the first.
In the second period, the Huskies got a goal, but were quickly answered by two more Nikiski scores.
Jabin Flensburg beat the Delta defense to send a pass to Josh Winters at 9:40, and Allemann got his second score off an assist from Lex Litzen at 7:23.
The Bulldogs were quieted in the third period, however, as Delta railed off three unanswered goals to tie up the game. But strong defensive play from both sides prevented anyone from closing regulation with a victory.
Anderson said his team's ability to remain on the offensive -- and in particular, senior wingman Rueben Floyd's gritty play -- was invaluable.
"He played a really physical game and helped us keep the puck in our possession," Anderson said of Floyd.
The eight-minute extra period was played down to the wire, with no point being scored nearly the entire overtime. But with 31 seconds left in the period, junior center Lex Litzen sent a pass to Zach Womack that Womack was able to get by the Delta netminder, winning the game.
The Huskies took 27 shots on goal, and senior goalie Jonathan Parnell made 23 stops. Parnell had already taken the title in the goaltender's skill competition earlier in the week, making the most saves out of seven Greatland Conference goalies attempting to stop live skaters' shots.
Anderson applauded the team's defensive play throughout the game.
"We had good defensive play from Jabin Flensburg, Louie Oliva and Josh Pepper," he said.
Pepper, a senior and team captain, was named to the all-conference team. Anderson said Pepper exhibited his leadership qualities when, late in the game, Pepper was boarded and appeared to be injured.
"Josh's body was beat up," Anderson said. "But he got up and got back in the game. He definitely stood up to the plate as captain and was definitely a team leader."
Houston 9, Nikiski 1
Nikiski lost the semifinal game of the Greatland Conference State Hockey tournament to Houston 9-1 Friday at the Brett Memorial Arena in Wasilla. The Bulldogs were only able to muster one goal against a stingy Hawks defense.
Lex Litzen scored Nikiski's lone goal in the third period at 8:29 off a power-play assist from Zach Womack.
BULLDOGS 5, HUSKIES 4, OT
Delta Junction 0 1 3 0 -- 4
Nikiski 2 2 0 1 -- 5
First period -- 1. Nikiski, Russell (Pepper), 3:14; 2. Nikiski, Allemann (Womack, Winters), 4:26.
Second period -- 3. Nikiski, Winters (Flensburg),5:20; 4. Nikiski, Allemann (Litzen), 7:37; 5. Delta.
Third period -- 6. Delta; 7. Delta; 8. Delta.
Overtime -- 9. Nikiski, Womack (Litzen), 7:29.
Shots on goal -- Delta 27; Nikiski 17.
Goalies -- Delta (17 shots-12 saves); Nikiski, Parnell (27 shots-23 saves.)
HAWKS 9, BULLDOGS 1
Nikiski 0 0 1 -- 1
Houston' 3 3 3 -- 9
First period -- Houston, Bennet (Morlock), :10; 2. Houston, W. Williams (Estes, Bennett), 1:36; 3. Houston, Bennett (J. Williams, W. Williams), 3:15. Penalties -- Nikiski 4 for 8:00, Houston 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 4. Houston, Bennett (Morlock), 1:56 (sh); 5. Houston, Styers, 3:45; 6. Houston, Bennett (W. Williams), 12:04 (pp). Penalties -- Nikiski 6 for 20:00, Houston 2 for 4:00.
Third period -- 7. Houston, Morlock (Bennett, Estes), :35 (pp); 8. Houston, Kincaid (Boehm), 3:30 (pp); 9. Nikiski, Litzen (Womack), 8:29; 10. Houston, Stull (Bertling), 11:22 (pp). Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00, Houston 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal -- Nikiski 8-7-8--23, Houston 12-14-9--35.
Goalies -- Nikiski, Parnell (35 shots-26 saves), Houston (24 shots-23 saves).
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