While the scoreboard didn't reflect it, the Nikiski High School hockey team got off to a good start Friday in a 6-1 Greatland Hockey Conference loss to Monroe Catholic at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.
The Bulldogs were able to tighten things up in the defensive zone Saturday, but suffered a 1-0 loss to the Rams.
"If you wouldn't have seen the scoreboard, you wouldn't have known who won," said Nikiski's Josh Pepper after Friday's game.
In fact, the Bulldogs outshot the Rams 31-20, including a 10-3 margin in the third period, but Monroe proved to be more efficient with its shooting, taking advantage of every opportunity in front of the Nikiski net.
Monroe's Tully Labelle-Hamer scored the only goal of the first period, slipping a wrist shot past Nikiski goaltender Luke Hardesty from the left circle 3:32 into the game.
"I think everyone was feeling some jitters at first, and they got that one goal right away," Pepper said.
The Bulldogs settled down for the remainder of the first period, keeping the Rams off the board while creating several excellent opportunities of their own. The Bulldogs were aggressive with their forecheck, but were able to stay disciplined on defense and on the penalty kill.
"I thought we played a fairly physical game. Luck was just on their side," Pepper said.
The Rams added a pair of goals in the opening 1:08 of the second period. Chad Wilson scored from the slot 18 seconds into the period when the puck was centered off a faceoff in the Nikiski zone, and Michael Andre was able to take advantage of some technical difficulties on the part of Hardesty 50 seconds later.
Hardesty lost his blocker in a flurry in front of the net, and Andre was able to collect the puck near the blue line and skate in alone on Hardesty while a Nikiski defenseman was behind the net fetching the blocker. Andre smartly placed his shot right where the blocker should have been.
Josh Winters scored the Bulldogs' first goal of the year 8:28 into the second period, sending a low, skipping shot on net from the left circle. The puck slipped past Monroe netminder John Carlson's pads. Jabin Flensburg earned the assist on the play.
The Rams added a pair of goals late in the period, though. Wilson was able to poke a puck out of a scrum in front of the net and past Hardesty at 12:10 of the period, and Andre notched his second goal of the game on a shot from the left circle 29 seconds later.
Monroe's Eric Helmbrecht capitalized on another scramble in front of the Nikiski net with six minutes left in the third period.
The Bulldogs continued to apply pressure and create chances through the third period, but couldn't convert several excellent scoring bids.
In Saturday's game, Labelle-Homer scored the only goal of the game 11:58 into the first period.
Hardesty made 15 saves for the Bulldogs.
"We're growing," said Nikiski coach Al Anderson. "The kids have been through a lot of conditioning, and it showed -- nobody was tuckered out in the third period."
Anderson said the next step would be to begin to fine-tune on offense and special teams.
"We're going to do some tinkering with some of our passing, and we'd like to capitalize more on the power play," Anderson said.
RAMS 6, BULLDOGS 1
Monroe 1 4 1 -- 6
Nikiski 0 1 0 -- 1
First period -- 1. Monroe, Labelle-Hamer (Correll, Andre),3:32. Penalties -- Monroe 2 for 4:00, Nikiski 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 2. Monroe, Wilson (Correll), 0:18; 3. Monroe, Andre (unassisted), 1:08; 4. Nikiski, Winters (Flensburg), 8:28; 5. Monroe, Wilson (unassisted), 12:10; 6. Monroe, Andre (unassisted), 12:39. Penalties -- Monroe 1 for 2:00.
Third period -- 7. Monroe, Helmbrecht (Labelle-Hamer, Andre), 9:00. Penalties -- Monroe 1 for 2:00, Nikiski 3 for 6:00.
Shots -- Monroe 9-8-3--20, Nikiski 8-13-10--31.
Goalies -- Monroe, Carlson, Gavin (31 shots, 30 saves); Nikiski, Hardesty (20 shots, 14 saves).
RAMS 1, BULLDOGS 0
Monroe 1 0 0 -- 1
Nikiski 0 0 0 -- 0
First period -- 1. Labelle-Homer (Andre, Deboer), 11:58 (pp). Penalties -- Monroe 3 for 14:00, Nikiski 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- none. Penalties -- Monroe 4 for 8:00, Nikiski 2 for 4:00.
Third period -- none. Penalties -- Monroe 2 for 4:00, Nikiski 2 for 4:00.
Shots -- Monroe 10-2-4--16, Nikiski 6-13-10--29.
Goalies -- Monroe, Carlson (29 shots, 29 saves); Nikiski, Hardesty (16 shots, 15 saves).
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