Welcome to Alaska, Henrik Janefeldt.
Better yet, welcome to the United States.
A senior from Sweden attending Kenai Central High School, Janefeldt scored his first goal as a member of the Kardinals and also added an assist as Kenai opened its season with a 3-1 victory over Homer at the Soldotna Sports Center on Thursday.
"He's a foreign exchange student. We've never been lucky enough to get one who played hockey, but this year we are," said Kardinals' coach Nate Kiel. "It came at a good time. We need some help. So, it was nice to have him."
Kenai (1-0) needs all the help it can get, as the reigning North Star Conference champions have been decimated by graduation.
Gone is the high-powered first line of Jed McGlasson, Brad Fusaro and Owen Dukowitz, all 50-point scorers, starting defensemen Stephen Cronkhite and Justin Gabriel, as well as goalie Lauren Baldwin and junior Dean Howell, who is currently playing hockey in Detroit, Mich.
"We lost a lot of points. We lost the whole front line plus Dean Howell," Kiel said. "Our top four scorers, who contributed about 95 percent of our goals last year, gone."
Perhaps that's why the Kardinals' new lineup card features pictures of every player.
So fans can get to know the fresh-faced team.
"It's not the same team that it was in terms of personnel," Kiel said. "But some great returners that are leading the way."
It took a scoreless opening period before both teams shed their offseason rust.
Homer lost its first, though.
Only 22 seconds into their second power play of the game, the Mariners capitalized when senior Sam Satre skated up the left side, declined to pass to either of his open linemates, and wristed a shot past Kenai goaltender Matt Barrett with 12:22 to go in the middle frame.
But the Kardinals answered at the 6:58 mark when junior Bobby Myles fed sophomore defender Dom Eubank, who was wide open just inside the blue line and sent it flying past Homer goalie Luke Ekert and into the upper corner of the net.
Eubank, along with junior Trevor Schaffner and seniors Cam Borchgrevink and Janefeldt, comprise a physical defense that will be crucial to the success of this season's squad.
"I think it can be a strength," Kiel said of his team's physicality. "We don't have that offensive punch for sure, but ... the four upperclassmen at defense will have to carry this team. They will have to lead this team. And if they're able to do that, we'll be successful."
It didn't take long for Janefeldt to show he belonged.
After ripping off a pair of power-play shots near the beginning of the third period, Janefeldt, positioned all alone just above the right circle, sent another slapper at Ekert, but this time it slipped past the goalie's left side for a 2-1 advantage.
"He was hoping to get a good shot. He has a good shot," Kiel said. "So, we want him to use it when he can."
Janefeldt later assisted Steve Horne's goal when he fired a shot in Ekert's direction and Horne was there to tap in the rebound.
"We didn't play very consistent hockey, I didn't think, early on. We made a couple good plays and then a couple of bad mistakes," Kiel explained. "The key for us with being a younger team, a less experienced team, is going to be to eliminate those errors, especially as we get into play with some of the guns in the region and in the state."
Barrett, who denied 26 of the 27 shots he faced, held off a late charge by the Mariners, who sent 14 shots in his direction in the third period, including a seven-shot flurry in the final 2:32.
"Big shoes to fill in net. We have a few goalies battling it out for playing time," he said. "Matt Barrett looked pretty good in practice early on. He has things to work on, like they all do, but he's played fairly well. He had a couple good weeks of practice and we decided to go with him (Thursday) and he did a good job for us."
Kenai's next game against visiting Kenny Lake, originally slated for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, has been moved to 12:45 p.m. on the same day to accommodate the Hawks' travel schedule.
KARDINALS 3, MARINERS 1
Homer 0 1 0 1
Kenai 0 1 2 3
First period Penalties Homer 2 for 4:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Second period 1. Homer, Satre (unassisted), 2:27 (pp); 2. Kenai, Eubank (Myles, Moore), 8:02. Penalties Homer 2 for 4:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period 3. Kenai, Janefeldt (Schaffner, H. Perkins), 3:47; 4. Kenai, Horne (Janefeldt), 5:27 (sh). Penalties Homer 3 for 6:00, Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal Homer 5-8-14 27; Kenai 10-10-9 29.
Goalies Homer, Ekert (29 shots-26 saves); Kenai, Barrett (27 shots-26 saves).
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