The Kenai Central High School hockey team had a tough game to end its season Saturday, dropping a 6-0 decision to the Chugiak Mustangs in the fourth-place game at the Alaska School Activities Association State 4A Hockey Championships at the Soldotna Sports Center.
But still, the Kardinals were playing on Saturday in the state hockey tournament, a first for a peninsula team in 10 years.
"That's what I told the boys," said Kenai coach Brian Gabriel Sr. "Usually on Saturday, we don't have a peninsula team playing. There's been a lot of firsts this year.
"A winning tradition starts somewhere, whether it's the Green Bay Packers or the Detroit Red Wings, somewhere it starts."
Said Kenai's Adrian Borchgrevink when asked what sort of tradition he and the other Kenai seniors were leaving behind: "Whatever we did, it feels good."
The Kardinals were a little dinged up for Saturday's game. Forward Phillip Ischi, who normally skates on Kenai's top line with Borchgrevink and Owen Brewer, was a late scratch with lingering pain from a back injury sustained in Friday's game.
Gabriel Sr. said his squad adjusted well to the jumbled lines, but Chugiak was able to take advantage on special teams, with five of the six goals coming with something other than full-strength situations. Chugiak's first goal came with each team skating down a man, and the Mustangs added a pair of power-play goals and a pair of short-handed tallies.
"We got into penalty problems, and against Chugiak, you can't do that," Gabriel Sr. said. "It's just a problem with playing disciplined hockey. On the other hand, we had our power-play opportunities, and we couldn't put anything together."
Indeed, the Mustangs were whistled for 15 penalties in the game, while the Kardinals had 13 penalties assessed.
Linesmen work to separate Chugiak's Brett Derouin and Kenai's Zach Hicks as they scuffle in the third period Saturday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
A fair chunk of those came in the final period, when Kenai's Zack Hicks and Chugiak's Brett DeRouin were ejected for fighting, and Kenai's Tommy Henson and Chugiak's Shane Wheeler were given matching double-minors for their roles in the same altercation.
Jason Shaffer scored two goals and assisted on two more for the Mustangs. Justin Frechione also netted a pair of goals for Chugiak.
Despite the ugly ending, Gabriel Sr. said Kenai has a lot to be proud of this year.
"Maybe there were some future Kenai Kardinals watching and they'll decide they want to be part of our program," Gabriel Sr. said. "We made state two years ago, and we won a game this year. There's a progression. We're definitely starting to gain some legitimacy as a program."
The fact that such a large chunk of Kenai's roster consists of underclassmen lends to the Kardinals' status as a program, rather than as a team.
"It was really exciting, especially for us underclassmen, to participate in an event like this," said Kenai's Micah Lillard. "We've been on a high (all week). We've been having a lot of fun, and we've been optimistic."
Borchgrevink said his one regret was that he and Brewer couldn't connect for one more goal to finish out their high school careers.
"I had hoped, with me and Owen and a couple other seniors, one more goal would have been nice," Borchgrevink said.
Lillard said the lasting impression from this year's senior class was a good one, though.
"Our seniors showed us anything is possible, if we work hard enough," Lillard said. "We'll be back next year with a vengeance."
MUSTANGS 6, KARDINALS 0
Chugiak 1 2 3 -- 6
Kenai 0 0 0 -- 0
First period -- 1. Chugiak, Shaffer (E. Gallagher), 10:33. Penalties -- Chugiak 3 for 6:00, Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Second period -- 2. Chugiak, Frechione (Shaffer, Johnson), 3:48 (pp); 3. Chugiak, Shaffer (Wheeler, DeRouin), 13:30 (pp). Penalties -- Chugiak 4 for 8:00, Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Third period -- 4. Chugiak, Quinn (Johnson), 2:50 (sh); 5. Chugiak, Frechione (Shaffer, Wheeler), 7:33; 6. Chugiak, Willert (Quinn), 8:36 (sh). Penalties -- Chugiak 8 for 19:00, Kenai 7 for 17:00.
Shots -- Chugiak 7-18-15--40, Kenai 2-3-7--12.
Goalies -- Chugiak, Hoffbeck, Wnetrzak (12 shots, 12 saves); Kenai, Silver (40 shots, 34 saves).
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