In order to find themselves, the Service hockey teams needs to find the back of the net.
The Cougars made progress in that area in defeating Soldotna 3-1 on Friday and Kenai Central 7-0 on Saturday in a pair of games at the Soldotna Sports Center. Service is 3-1 overall now, while Soldotna is 1-1 and Kenai is 2-2.
Service has eight state titles in its history. The Cougars were on a run of three straight from 2002 to 2004 when South High opened in the 2004-05 school year and grabbed some of Service's students.
Since then, it's been all South in state hockey. The Wolverines picked up titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
"We're still a really young team," said Service coach Brush Christiansen, whose roster has seven seniors. "We're still really finding ourselves and looking to put it all together. I hope it comes fast, in the next couple of games, before we get into conference play."
Christiansen said one area where Service has struggled is scoring goals. That was evident on Friday against the Stars, when the Cougars outshot the Stars 27-12 in the first two periods, yet were still in a 1-1 game. Service ended up outshooting Soldotna 42-15.
Both Christiansen and Soldotna coach Kyle Howell said Stars goalie Michael McGrath deserved credit for keeping Service from scoring more.
"Their goalie played very well," Christiansen said. "We came out and challenged him a lot. Sometimes, when a goalie is seeing a lot of shots, that keeps him in the game. He gets on a roll and makes all the saves."
Howell said his defense did a good job making sure that most of Service's shots came from the outside. However, he said there were still problems on defense.
"We pushed them to the outside quite a bit, but it's still 42 shots," Howell said. "That's tough."
The only player to solve McGrath was Service senior Logan Rounds, who recorded a hat trick. All of the tallies by Rounds came in special teams situations.
On a first-period power play, Kory Roy received a pass from Ryan Kowal. Roy fired a shot from just inside the blue line and Rounds tipped the puck past McGrath.
The Stars came back to tie the game in the second period on a short-handed goal from Soldotna freshman Brad Duwe. Duwe pounced on a loose puck in Soldotna's zone and outraced Service's defenders down the ice. He rushed in on Service goalie Eric Aasand and beat him with a backhand.
That gave Duwe three goals and an assist on the season, meaning he's been involved in every one of Soldotna's goals.
"He's been able to come in and contribute pretty quickly," Howell said. "It doesn't surprise me. He's been playing in Anchorage for three years. That makes a big difference."
In general, though, Howell said the Stars have to play better on offense.
"We had 15 shots, and that's not enough," he said.
With 8:57 left in the game, Rounds put the Cougars ahead to stay in a 4-on-4 when he got a pass from Devon Lamonthe and scored on a wrister.
With 6:48 to play, Service opened the door for Soldotna by taking a hooking penalty. The power play went bad for Soldotna when the Stars took a penalty with 5:55 remaining, the another with 5:26 remaining. Service took advantage of the 5-on-3 when some tick-tack-toe passing gave Rounds an open opportunity in front of the net.
"The passing on that goal on the last power play was really nice," Christiansen said. "That's what we need to do more often."
Howell said he was pleased with his team's efforts, especially because two senior forwards were missing due to injury. At times, Howell said he had four freshman on the ice at the same time on Friday.
"We stayed with them until the end, we just ran out of gas a little bit," Howell said. "When we get those two seniors back, it'll give us a little more depth."
Service continued to have success on offense on Saturday against Kenai, scoring in the first minute en route to a 7-0 victory.
"They had more people going for rebounds on the weak side of the slot," Kenai coach Nate Kiel said. "I thought Service played well."
Kiel also was happy with his squad's effort.
"I was proud of the kids. They didn't give up," he said. "We made it our goal to keep improving with each shot and each period. I think we were able to do that."
COUGARS 3, STARS 1
Service 1 0 2 3
Soldotna 0 1 0 1
First period 1. Service, Rounds (Roy, Kowal), 13:18. Penalties Service 4 for 8:00; Soldotna 5 for 10:00.
Second period 2. Soldotna, Duwe (un.), 7:38. Penalties Service 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Third period 3. Service, Rounds (Lamothe), 6:03; 4. Service, Rounds (Kowal, Gongora), 10:52. Penalties Service 5 for 10:00; Soldotna 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal Service 17-10-15 42; Soldotna 6-6-3 15.
Goalies Service, Aasand (15 shots, 14 saves); Soldotna, Michael McGrath (42 shots, 39 saves).
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