When Soldotna faces off with Kenai Central on the ice, it's always an event.
Saturday was no exception as fans packed the Soldotna Sports Center to watch the Kardinals tangle with the Stars in the opening game of the 2002-03 high school season.
The Stars escaped with a 3-2 victory, weathering a late Kenai rally as the Kardinals outshot the Stars 16-3 in the final period, with several excellent chances coming on a power play in the closing minutes.
Only a parade to the penalty box in the second period -- 13 penalties between the two teams in the frame -- slowed down what was a wide open hockey game, with both goalkeepers, Jon Verhelst for the Stars and Daniel Silver for the Kardinals, called on to make some big saves.
Hunter Sirois potted the first goal of the game for the Stars after Johnny Smith intercepted the puck at center ice. Smith sprung Sirois for a breakaway with a pass up the middle, and while a Kenai skater was able to catch up with Sirois, Sirois was still able to tuck the puck between Silver's pads at 12:37 of the first period.
Dan Ghormley gave the Stars a 2-0 lead 4:10 into the second period. Silver was able to make a save on the initial Soldotna shot, but was unable to locate the rebound, which had been knocked out in front of the goal where Ghormley was waiting with his stick on the ice. Johnny Mills earned an assist on the play.
The Kardinals got on the board at 9:49 of the second period on a short-handed goal by Owen Brewer. Brewer was able to take in a long clearing pass by CJ Henley just outside the Soldotna blue line and skate in alone on Verhelst to tuck the puck home.
Soldotna answered with a power-play goal with 49 seconds left in the period. Peter Kim collected the puck behind the Kenai net and displayed some nifty stickwork to reach around and tuck the puck just inside the post.
Brewer and linemate Adrian Borchgrevink were up to their same old tricks in the third period, though, creating several excellent scoring opportunities. The difference this year, though, was that Kenai's top line had plenty of help from its supporting cast as chance after chance came from the rest of the Kardinals as well.
Borchgrevink was able to pull the Kardinals to within a goal with 4:51 left in the game, taking advantage of a four-on-four situation -- and all the open ice it entails.
Borchgrevink took a pass from Brewer, swooped into the Soldotna zone unchecked and deftly slipped the puck between Verhelst's pads.
Kenai continued to apply pressure on the Soldotna goal through the closing minutes, but was unable to come up with the equalizer. The Stars survived a Kenai power play in the closing minutes, then turned aside the Kardinals in the closing minute when Kenai pulled Silver in favor of an extra skater.
STARS 3, KARDINALS 2
Soldotna 1 2 0 -- 3
Kenai 0 1 1 -- 2
First period -- 1. Soldotna, Sirois (Smith), 12:37. Penalties -- Soldotna, 3 for 6:00, Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Second period -- 2. Soldotna, Ghormley (Mills), 4:10; 3. Kenai, Brewer (Henley), 9:49 (sh); 4. Soldotna, Kim (unassisted), 14:11 (pp). Penalties -- Soldotna 6 for 12:00, Kenai 7 for 14:00.
Third period -- 5. Kenai, Borchgrevink (Brewer), 10:09. Penalties -- Soldotna 3 for 6:00, Kenai 4 for 16:00.
Shots -- Soldotna 7-8-3--18, Kenai 9-8-16--33.
Goalies -- Soldotna, Verhelst (33 shots, 31 saves); Kenai, Silver (18 shots, 15 saves).
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