The Northern Lights Conference Northern Division boys swept the South in the opening round of the NLC tournament on Thursday in Kenai. Palmer, Wasilla, Grace Christian and Colony all moved one step closer to the state tournament while Kenai Central, Soldotna, Nikiski and Homer saw their seasons end.
The fourth-seeded Moose downed top-seeded Nikiski 3-0. Palmer plays Wasilla, which defeated Kenai 2-0, at 5 p.m. today. Grace, a third seed, beat second-seeded SoHi 3-0. The Grizzlies face Colony, which topped Homer 6-0, at 1 p.m.
Today's winners advance to the championship game Saturday at 4 p.m. and the losers square off in the third-place match at noon. The top three teams earn state berths.
Warriors 2, Kardinals 0
The game was reminiscent of the regular season contest the two played just two weeks ago, and had the same outcome. Like the previous game, Thursday's match was a physical one.
"It was an extremely physical game," Warriors head coach Blake Livingston said. "Both sides battled.
"We're happy to be moving forward in the tournament," he added.
The goals scorers were also the same. Paul Sliwa scored on a penalty kick, as he did in the earlier meeting, in the 21st minute, putting a shot top-right. His penalty kick resulted from a Kenai foul in the box. Wasilla had a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Jake Barber put a close-range shot in the right side of the net in the 68th minute.
Kenai responded well after the first goal, generating several prime scoring chances. Justin Calhoun curled a shot just over the goal five minutes after Wasilla scored.
The Kards then had a chance to tie the game on a penalty kick in the 31st minute. But AJ Ewing launched his shot over the net. Kenai then hit the crossbar three minutes later.
"We had some good opportunities," Kards head coach David Landry said. "This has been a team that has not been lucky all year."
Landry said he was pleased with his team's effort.
"The boys played hard today," he said. "They all came to play, they all competed."
Kenai's defense was a strong point, Landry said.
"We had such great play from out back," he said. "The midfielders right through really did a lot of work."
Landry said it's disappointed to see his senior-laden team ousted on the opening day of the tournament.
"It's a tough way to go out," he said. "It's tough to see these boys go."
All of the success this season couldn't have been achieved without the help from assistant coaches Wally Ward and Justin Carr, Landry said.
"Our program continues to improve because of the good people that continue to volunteer their time," he said.
Moose 3, Bulldogs 0
This is the first time Palmer has won its opening round game in the NLC tourney since Kevin Dearborn took over the head-coaching duties four years ago.
"We're moving on," Dearborn said.
He said the key to the win was intensity.
"We played smart, intense soccer," he said.
Another key was a fast start. Palmer's Aube Strickland netted the game's first tally just three minutes in. The Moose held a 1-0 advantage at the half.
Piers LaFrance scored in the 65th minute. His shot deflected off of the fingertips of Nikiski keeper Jordan Harrison and found its way into the back of the net. Dunedin Strickland buried a goal in the 80th minute just before time was called.
Palmer was more hungry than Nikiski, Bulldogs head coach Jim Coburn said.
"They came out and they wanted to win," he said. "I don't feel like we played our best game today."
Grizzlies 3, Stars 0
The Grizzlies netted two goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, Stars head coach Jeff Siemers said.
"They came out and played well," he said.
John Weber netted the first goal on an assist from Jordan Edwards. The two switched roles on the next goal. Edwards found the back of the net and Weber had the helper. Edwards added his second of the game to round out the scoring.
A couple of defensive lapses led to the two quick strikes, Siemers said.
"We made adjustments and held, but we just couldn't finish," he said. "It's tough to end the season. It always is."
Knights 6, Mariners 0
Five different players tallied goals to lead Colony past Homer. Jesse Rouse led his team with two goals.
Logan Smith, Jonas Madsen, Rouse and Aaron Richardson scored to give Colony a 4-0 lead at the half.
Rouse and James Meaney scored in the second half.
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