Maybe they should have shared the trophy.
After all, Lathrop and Kenai both played like winners.
But before the Kardinals even took the ice Saturday night against Soldotna, Lathrop had clinched the Peninsula Ice Challenge title by defeating East High of Anchorage, 4-3, in overtime and by allowing the fewest goals of the tournament six to Kenai’s nine as the tiebreaker.
Despite knowing they hadn’t won, the Kardinals still performed like champions.
Owen Dukowitz had a pair of goals, Jed McGlasson added a goal and two assists and Brad Fusaro collected two assists in leading Kenai past Soldotna, 4-2, to finish the tournament with a 2-0-1 record.
Lathrop also completed a 2-0-1 run after both teams tied, 3-3, on Friday night. Malemutes forward TJ Leibl recorded a hat trick in all three contests and even added an assist on the game-winning goal in overtime against East.
With Saturday’s contest knotted 1-1 after Dukowitz scored and SoHi’s Ben Christianson answered on a power play, the Stars’ Clayton Glick slipped one past Kenai goaltender Lauren Baldwin for a 2-1 advantage only 3:16 into the middle period. But the Kardinals answered on a power play when McGlasson fed Stephen Cronkhite for a one-timer and 19 seconds later, Dukowitz found the back of the net again on a scramble in front of the goal for a 3-2 lead with 1:44 left in the frame.
McGlasson added another for good measure when he slid the puck through the legs of SoHi (0-3 in tournament) goalie Michah Perletti early in the third period, securing the victory and an unblemished tournament run. Baldwin and Perletti were both solid between the pipes again, saving 21 of 23 and 29 of 33 shots, respectively.
Lathrop 3, Kenai 3, OT
On Friday night the program read, “Lathrop against Kenai.”
However, it quickly developed into Leibl vs. McGlasson.
One night after recording the first hat trick of his high school career, McGlasson netted another, including the game-tying score with 2:34 to go in regulation, and Leibl also scored three times in leading both squads to a 3-3 tie through an eight-minute overtime period on the second day of the Challenge.
“McGlasson is a heck of a good player,” said Lathrop coach Shawn Lundgren. “He works real hard and it’s pretty obvious that he carries a whole load of the offense. And the same with Leibl. Both ended up with three goals.
“It seemed to be a McGlasson-Leibl shootout.”
It was pretty obvious it was going to play out that way.
After McGlasson struck first with under two minutes to play in the opening period, tapping the puck in during a skirmish in front of the net, Leibl displayed his fluid puck-handling skills.
Skating down the right side, the senior captain cut in, slipped the puck under a Kenai defenseman’s stick and sent a wrist shot sailing over the right shoulder of Baldwin, knotting the score at 1 entering the middle frame.
Both teams failed to score on five combined power plays in the first 15 minutes, but that all changed in the second.
Patiently passing the puck around with a one-man advantage, Leibl scooped it up behind the net and skated into the middle where he backhanded it by Baldwin for a 2-1 edge with 8:28 remaining in the period.
But 1:20 later, McGlasson, the other senior captain, tied the game after skating down the left side and slicing in front of Patrick Brady, then sliding it past him into the back of the net.
Again playing with a one-man advantage, Leibl deflected a Brian Gunderson slap shot for a 3-2 lead with nearly three minutes to play in the period.
Kenai, failing to tie it up again in the second, emerged in the third looking like a new team.
The Kardinals held the Malemutes shotless on a power play and kept the puck out of their own end most of the period.
After having several chances to even the game, McGlasson came through, yet again.
Dukowitz carried the puck from behind the net and found McGlasson planted in front, where he simply lifted it over Brady for the tying score.
“I didn’t even know Owen saw me. But all three of us have been playing together for a long time,” McGlasson said of Dukowitz and Fusaro, who also assisted on the goal. “We have a lot of chemistry. We’re best friends, so it’s easy to know where each other’s at at all times.”
One day after McGlasson rallied the Kardinals to a 5-4 victory over East with two late short-handed goals, Kenai coach Nate Kiel was impressed with the way his team perserved again.
“I’m extremely proud that we have a team that doesn’t quit,” he said. “It goes back to having eight senior leaders that lead this team and that’s really the secret to our success.”
While Brady turned away 34 of the 37 shots he faced, Kenai’s Baldwin denied 40 of 43, allowing only Leibl to beat her.
“I just knew that I had to pay extra attention to him and look where he was going. He still got it past me a few times,” she said. “He’s a good player and if I stopped him, I’m glad I did.”
East 3, Soldotna 2, OT
Just call it an unlucky bounce.
Unfortunately, it cost Soldotna the game.
After scoring two power-play goals and erasing an early 2-0 deficit, East’s David Piccard received the puck in front of the net and stuffed it at SoHi’s Perletti. The puck then squirted into the air where Piccard snagged it and skated around the net, placing it on the ground and finding a wide-open Jay Baldwin for a one-timer and the game-winner with 5:06 left in overtime.
The goal spoiled an overall better performance for Soldotna, which was blanked 6-0 by Lathrop on Thursday in the opening round of the Challenge.
“We just came ready to play (Friday) and that was the big thing we talked to the kids about (Thursday) night after the game, was coming mentally prepared to play,” Stars coach Aaron Swanson said. “(Thursday) night we never could get started playing and (Friday) we played a lot better.”
As for the final play, there wasn’t much Soldotna’s senior goalie Perletti could do, despite having played an impeccable game through three periods.
“The puck bounced right to him, basically where he could get a hand on it, set it down. He threw it across and the other guy’s going to the net, just a bang-bang play,” Swanson said. “There was really nothing we could do about it. They made a nice play.”
For the second straight game, the Stars spent an exorbitant amount of time in the penalty box (14 penalties), forcing Perletti to witness 34 shots, 31 of which he denied.
His most impressive display came while down a man with about four minutes to go in regulation, facing a barrage of Thunderbird shots he saved while sprawling and diving all over the crease.
“He’s just a phenomenal goaltender. He does a great job for us,” Swanson said. “I know he’s disappointed right now that we didn’t get the victory, but he played a phenomenal game.”
The Stars who were outshot 34-19 struck first when Christianson stole the puck at midice, beat one man and put it past Jacob Fiske for a short-handed goal at the 4:40 mark of the opening period.
“Bennie is a really talented offensive player,” he said. “He just used his speed to break away from the defense.”
Whitney Ischi made it 2-0 only 1:06 into the second when, from just inside the blue line, she sent a slap shot sailing into the back of the net.
However, after failing to score on eight previous power plays, East (1-2 in tournament) finally capitalized when Stephen Hudson slipped it past Perletti during a skirmish in front of the net with 4:51 to go in the middle frame, trimming the deficit to one.
Then on another power play, Piccard knotted the game at 2 when he took the puck near the Stars’ blue line and skated in a bit before wristing it over Perletti’s right shoulder with only 46.2 seconds remaining in the period.
“We struggled at the beginning of the game with our power plays. We were just making hard passes, trying to pass through skates and not making the simple plays,” East coach Yvan Corbin said. “It’s definitely good for us to get our first win of the year.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com
All Tournament Team: Kenai: Owen Dukowitz, Jed McGlasson, Lauren Baldwin, Brad Fusaro; SoHi: Ben Christianson, Michah Perletti, Sam Evanoff; Lathrop: TJ Leibl, Pat Brady, Robert Burdick; East: George Arroyo, Stephen Hudson, Ryan Luiten.
STARS 2, KARDINALS 4
Soldotna 1 1 0 2
Kenai 1 2 1 4
First period 1. Kenai, Dukowitz, 1:13; 2. SoHi, Christianson (Glick, Boyles), 4:35 (pp). Penalties SoHi 3 for 6:00; Kenai 4 for 8:00.
Second period 3. Sohi, Glick (Boyles, Bishop), 3:16 (pp); 4. Kenai, Cronkhite (McGlasson), 12:57 (pp); 5. Kenai, Dukowitz (McGlasson, Fusaro), 13:16. Penalties SoHi 3 for 6:00; Kenai 3 for 14:00.
Third period 6. Kenai, McGlasson (Fusaro), 6:59. Penalties Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Sohi 10-6-723; Kenai 8-15-1033.
Goalies SoHi, Perletti (33 shots-29 saves); Kenai, Baldwin (23 shots-21 saves).
MALEMUTES 3, KARDINALS 3, OT
Lathrop 1 2 0 0 3
Kenai 1 1 1 0 3
First period 1. Kenai, McGlasson (Dukowitz), 13:06; 2. Lathrop, Leibl (Burdick), 14:46. Penalties Lathrop 2 for 4:00; Kenai 3 for 6:00.
Second period 3. Lathrop, Leibl (Burdick), 6:32; 4. Kenai, McGlasson, 7:52; 5. Lathrop, Leibl (Gunderson), 11:53. Penalties Lathrop 2 for 4:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period 6. Kenai, McGlasson (Dukowitz, Fusaro), 12:26. Penalties Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Overtime Penalties Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Lathrop 15-13-8-743; Kenai 13-11-8-537.
Goalies Lathrop, Brady (37 shots-34 saves); Kenai, Baldwin (43 shots-40 saves).
STARS 2, THUNDERBIRDS 3, OT
Soldotna 1 1 0 0 2
East 0 2 0 1 3
First period 1. SoHi, Christianson, 10:20 (sh). Penalties SoHi 6 for 20:00; East 2 for 4:00.
Second period 2. SoHi, Ischi (Perkins, Evanoff), 1:06 (pp); 3. East, Hudson (Luiten), 10:09 (pp); 4. East, Piccard (Little), 14:14 (pp). Penalties SoHi 6 for 20:00; East 3 for 14:00.
Third period Penalties Sohi 1 for 2:00, East 1 for 2:00.
Overtime 5. East, Baldwin (Piccard), 2:54.
Shots on goal Sohi 3-9-5-219; East 11-9-12-234.
Goalies SoHi, Perletti (34 shots-31 saves); East, Fiske (19 shots-17 saves).
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