Just how much potential does the Soldotna High School hockey team have?
For starters, the Stars defeated the rival Kenai Kardinals 4-1 Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center in a nonconference tilt -- and coach Pat Nolden, as well as most of his players, admit they've still got plenty to work on.
"We won the game," Nolden said, "but as whole, it was pretty sloppy. It was the first game of the year. There's a lot to go over yet."
Also on Friday, the Skyview Panthers got their season started with a nonconference win, defeating the Nikiski Bulldogs 9-4.
The high school hockey schedule got under way quickly this season, as area teams have had exactly 10 practice sessions -- the minimum required by the Alaska School Activities Association before athletes are eligible to take the ice.
Lack of substantial practice time was a factor for the Kardinals as well, though it came in a different form.
Kenai goaltender Ryan Whiteley, who entered the game in relief of Ryan Dukowitz with 9:08 left in the first period, went on to stop 20 of the 22 shots he faced. All that after Whiteley strapped on the pads for the first time Thursday at practice.
"I was excited, but I was pretty nervous," Whiteley said. "They needed another goalie, so I said I'd do it."
Just getting the pads for Whiteley proved to be an adventure. With his No. 1 goalie out of state, Kenai coach Brian Gabriel Sr. realized he needed a backup for this weekend's competition, and sent his daughter, Jenna, the team's student manager, and Whiteley to go borrow a set of pads.
Whiteley was in a minor traffic accident en route. While nobody was seriously injured, Whiteley did miss Wednesday's on-ice session and had to make it up with coach Gabriel, hitting the exercise equipment at Healthy Changes, just to be eligible to play.
Whiteley then had a crash course in netminding Thursday.
"They just shot some pucks at me," Whiteley said. "I was pretty comfortable. It's something I'd do again."
While Whiteley may have felt comfortable between the pipes, the Stars at least made his job pressure-filled. David Newby and John Gleason each tallied against Dukowitz in the opening six minutes, and Mike McIntosh and Eric Newby each scored for the Stars in the final period.
"The second period was slow. In the third period, we came back," said Soldotna's Daniel Jensen. "We did everything medium. We didn't do anything excellent, but we cycled to the net OK. Our neutral-ice play wasn't too hot."
Boone Hall tallied Kenai's goal on a first-period power play, temporarily knotting the score.
"We haven't had time to draw anything up with the number of practices we've had," Gabriel Sr. said. "We told Boone -- he's the biggest kid on the team -- just to park it in front of the net."
Kenny Bishop and Egan Gleason shared goaltending duties for the Stars. Bishop started the game, stopping seven of the eight shots he faced. Gleason turned aside all 11 shots he saw.
STARS 4, KARDINALS 1
Soldotna 2 0 2 -- 4
Kenai 1 0 0 -- 1
First period -- 1. Soldotna, D. Newby (unassisted), 2:07; 2. Kenai, Hall (Borchgrevink, Brewer), 3:08 PPG; 3. Soldotna, J. Gleason (Smith, Murray), 5:52 PPG. Penalties -- Soldotna 1 for 12:00, Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Second period -- No scoring. Penalties -- Soldotna 1 for 2:00, Kenai 3 for 16:00.
Third period -- 4. Soldotna, McIntosh (Kim, Herring), 4:57 PPG; 5. Soldotna, E. Newby (Kim, McIntosh), 9:45. Penalties -- Soldotna 3 for 6:00, Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal -- Soldotna 12-6-9-- 27, Kenai 5-9-5--19.
Goalies -- Soldotna, Bishop (8 shots, 7 saves), E. Gleason (11 shots, 11 saves); Kenai, Dukowitz (5 shots, 3 saves), Whiteley (22 shots, 20 saves).
Power play opportunities -- Soldotna 2 for 5, Kenai 1 for 3.
PANTHERS 9, BULLDOGS 4
Skyview scored four goals in the first period and goaltender Brandon Dockery turned aside several good Nikiski scoring bids, giving the Panthers the early edge.
"Dockery came up big in the first period," Skyview coach Indy Walton said.
While Dockery was holding down the fort, the Panthers were putting plenty of pressure on Nikiski goalie Nigel Penhale. Jesse Waltemyer netted the first goal of the game, and John Allen, Chad Moore and David Krumm followed suit before the first intermission.
The Bulldogs caught their breath and kept pace with the Panthers through the second and third periods, though. Quincy Bird led the Nikiski attack with two goals and an assist. Seth Tauriainen and Todd Brigham also tallied for the Bulldogs.
"We did a lot of mix and match with our lines," Bird said. "(Skyview) just beat us to the puck in every corner. That's what set things up for them in front of the net. All in all, we've got a lot of potential."
The Panthers put together a balanced attack against the Bulldogs as eight different players found the back of the net. Mitch Burdick was the only two-goal scorer, while Randy Berg, Jake Satathite and John Fiermening also found the back of the net for the Panthers.
Walton was pleased to see Lukas Felman collect four assists and added that Allen and Randy Berg turned in solid defensive efforts.
"It's always nice to get goals from the defense," Walton said.
PANTHERS 9, BULLDOGS 4
Nikiski 0 2 2 -- 4
Skyview 4 3 2 -- 9
First period -- 1. Skyview, Waltemyer (unassisted), 2:52; 2. Skyview, Allen (Felman), 10:48 PPG; 3. Skyview, Moore (Felman, Woodward), 12:29 PPG; 4. Skyview, Krumm (Woodward, Christianson), 14:25 PPG. Penalties -- Nikiski 5 for 10:00, Skyview 4 for 8:00.
Second period -- 5. Skyview, Burdick (Adams), 1:51; 6. Nikiski, Tauriainen (Floyd, Bird), 6:51 PPG; 7. Skyview, Berg (Fiermening, Adams), 12:57; 8. Nikiski, Bird (Parrish, Brigham), 13:58 PPG; 9. Skyview, Satathite (Felman, Krumm), 14:46. Penalties -- Nikiski, 1 for 2:00, Skyview 3 for 6:00.
Third period -- 10. Skyview, Fiermening (Burdick), 2:30; 11. Nikiski, Bird (unassisted), 4:01 SHG; 12. Skyview, Burdick (Felman), 4:46; 13. Nikiski, Brigham (unassisted), 7:42. Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00, Skyview 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal -- Nikiski 2-6-1--19, Skyview 19-14-10--43.
Goalies -- Nikiski, Penhale (43 shots, 34 saves); Skyview, Dockery (19 shots, 15 saves).
Power play opportunities -- Nikiski 3 for 6, Skyview 3 for 6.
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