Soldotna's Sam Evanoff looks to the puck after colliding with Lathrop's Brooks Poe in the third period of Thursday's first Peninsula Ice Challenge game.
M. Scott Moon
Soldotna coach Aaron Swanson was impressed with Lathrop forward TJ Leibl before the game even began.
“Just watching him in warmups you could tell he was going to be all over the place,” he said.
His opinion didn’t change much following the contest, either.
Leibl recorded a hat trick and added an assist while sophomore Patrick Brady turned away all 11 shots he faced in leading the Malemutes to a 6-0 rout of the Stars in the opening round of the Peninsula Ice Challenge Thursday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
After coming out a bit sluggish as a team, Leibl sparked Lathrop by lighting the lamp only 3:46 into the game, coming from behind the net on a power play and stuffing the puck past Soldotna goaltender Michah Perletti.
“For this high school level, he’s definitely one of the best players in the state,” Swanson said.
The senior captain then assisted Robert Burdick’s goal with 1:50 remaining in the first and netted his second of the game with 6:54 left in the middle frame.
“TJ you know what you get from him every game. He shows up 110 percent,” Lathrop coach Shawn Lundgren said. “He’s a leader. He makes everybody better out on the ice. He works real hard and he takes pride in what he does.”
He saved his best for last, though, racing past the Stars’ blue line and through their defense to catch up to a sliding puck he then lifted over Perletti’s right shoulder for a 4-0 Malemutes’ lead just 36 seconds into the third period.
While his premier stick-handling ability is clearly evident, Leibl believes his speed is his No. 1 attribute.
“I just feel I’m really graceful on the ice,” said Leibl, who has now recorded a hat trick in each of his team’s first two games this season. “I’ve got some good speed I like to use and go around defensemen. It helps me a lot.”
Swanson recognized it as well.
“He’s amazing. He’s really fast,” he said. “We were talking about him all night long in the locker room, just our guys having a hard time keeping up with him.
“Just trying to get our defensemen ready for him. Guys coming at them with good hands is pretty tough to deal with,” Swanson added. “He was tough to deal with all night.”
Lathrop sophomore Jacob Tayer added to the tally with a power-play goal at the 9:47 mark of the third and fellow classmate Jeff Mobley took advantage of a five-on-three and added another one five minutes later.
“We’re a very young team,” Lundgren said. “I’m hoping that every game, every period, every shift, we’re just going to keep on getting better. I think we saw that, especially with the younger guys.”
The Stars (0-2) were outshot 19-5 in the opening period and 39-11 overall, leaving Perletti with the tall task of keeping his squad in the game.
“He played a good game. We count on him a lot, unfortunately a little more than we would like to have to count on him,” Swanson said of his senior goalie. “Definitely had some I think he’d like to have back (Thursday). But then again, made some saves that should have probably been goals, too.”
Soldotna’s offense finally found some rhythm early in the second, firing three shots on net in a three-minute span. However, all were denied by Brady and the Stars failed to put a shot on net in the final period.
The Stars also spent 25 minutes in the penalty box, compared with 13 by the Malemutes. Both of the team’s penalty totals included a five-minute major after Soldotna’s Eli Waldrip and Lathrop’s Phillip Clifton wrestled each other to the ice with 27 seconds to go in the contest.
“It definitely was a tough one,” said Swanson, whose team will take on East High of Anchorage today at 8:15 p.m. and Kenai on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. “We didn’t come ready to play (Thursday). We didn’t play our best game. We struggled from start to finish.”
MALEMUTES 6, STARS 0
Lathrop 2 1 3 6
Soldotna 0 0 0 0
First period 1. Lathrop, Leibl (Burdick, Clifton), 3:46 (pp); 2. Lathrop, Burdick (Leibl), 13:10. Penalties Lathrop 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 3 for 6:00.
Second period 3. Lathrop, Leibl (Olson, Parr), 8:06. Penalties Lathrop 2 for 4:00.
Third period 4. Lathrop, Leibl (Burdick, Letuligasenoa), :36; 5. Tayer (Hajdukovich, Pitka), 5:13 (pp); 6. Mobley (Parr, Gunderson), 10:15 (pp). Penalties Lathrop 2 for 7:00, Soldotna 8 for 17:00.
Shots on goal Lathrop 19-8-1239; Soldotna 5-6-011.
Goalies Lathrop, Brady (11 shots-11 saves); Soldotna, Perletti (39 shots-33 saves).
Kenai 5, East 4
Senior Jed McGlasson recorded a natural hat trick in third period and senior goalie Lauren Baldwin held off a late charge, propelling Kenai to a thrilling 5-4 victory over East High of Anchorage in the opening round of the Peninsula Ice Challenge on Thursday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Following a goal by East’s George Arroyo 35 seconds into the second frame that knotted the contest at 2-2, McGlasson lit the lamp less than 30 seconds later to put the Kardinals back on top by one.
Arroyo then netted an unassisted tally to regain the lead for the Thunderbirds, but McGlasson answered with two goals on the same penalty-kill for a 5-3 edge with about five minutes to play.
East’s Curtis Tucker then trimmed the deficit to one when he scored nearly 1:30 later, but after the Thunderbirds pulled their goalie, Kenai goaltender Lauren Baldwin withheld a furious attack in the closing seconds, preserving the victory.
Stephen Hudson opened the scoring in the first when he found the back of the net with 2:44 remaining, giving the Thunderbirds a 1-0 advantage entering the second.
But Kenai’s senior captain Owen Dukowitz scored twice within two minutes of each other late in the second frame to send the Kardinals into the final period with a 2-1 lead.
Baldwin stopped 28 of the 32 shots she faced while East goalie Adrian Oehrlein turned away 19 of the 24 he saw.
Kenai (2-0) will take on Lathrop today at 5:45 p.m., and on Saturday, the Kards will square off with Soldotna at 7:15 p.m.
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