Kenai goalie Matt Barrett makes a save in the third period Friday against Eagle River. Barret denied 19 of the 22 shots he faced as Kenai fell to Eagle River, 3-1.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Kenai coach Nate Kiel didn't know too much about Eagle River entering the Kardinals' contest with the Wolves on Friday night.
One thing he did believe, though, is they were one of the weaker teams in the Anchorage area.
After the Wolves' performance against his team, Kiel may shuffle them up a few notches.
Aided by a couple of lucky bounces, Eagle River scored in each of the final two periods and Wolves' goalie Kyle Haken turned away 19 of the 20 shots he faced in edging Kenai, 3-1, in non-conference action at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"I knew that from playing them before and watching them before that they had an energetic, young team and that they would be tough for us," Kiel explained. "I've been telling the kids all week long that it's going to be everything we can do to put it together. We can beat them, but of course we fell short."
It didn't get much easier for the Kardinals, as they took on three-time defending 4A state champion South on Saturday, falling to the Wolverines, 12-0.
"You can't look past any opponent, obviously. In this one, we're certainly not," Kiel said of South on Friday. "We know they're tough. We know they're going to give us everything we can handle. It's just a matter of seeing how well we can play."
The Kardinals (3-4) played a tough, physical game against Eagle River on Friday, creating multiple scoring opportunities, including a handful by freshman Zack Sonninchsen, but surrendered two unfortunate goals, one in the early moments of the second and the clincher with under two minutes remaining in the game.
"We were right in it. We thought we had a great chance of winning," Kiel said. "I was proud of the fact that right down to the end, the kids were playing hard and they believed, they thought they could win. If they keep working hard, keep that attitude, they'll win some of those games and then it just starts building."
Heidi Perkins helped stake Kenai to an early lead when she stole the puck along the right boards, darted in on the goalie and dropped the puck to a wide-open Sonninchsen, who wristed it over a diving Haken for a 1-0 edge just 5:37 in the contest.
But after Kenai escaped a power-play in which they surrendered four shots, their next penalty came back to bite them.
Trevor Schaffner, who was whistled for the first penalty, went to the box just over two minutes later on a hooking call and the Wolves capitalized.
Shane Wescott rifled a shot from the point that sailed over the net, but Ben Russell was there to retrieve the rebound. He then cut out from behind the net and released a shot from the side, which somehow managed to slip past junior goalie Matt Barrett (19 saves on 22 shots), knotting the game with roughly three minutes remaining in the first.
"That one was kind of a lucky goal, a soft goal," Kiel said. "I think it might of bounced off the back of the pad and snuck in."
Sonninchsen then found himself with ample chances to put the Kardinals back on top.
With roughly six minutes to play in the second, senior Reed Ehrhardt poked the puck past a defender and into Eagle River's zone, where Sonninchsen retrieved it, broke in untouched on Haken and sent the puck flying past the goal.
The freshman squandered more opportunities in the third.
He whiffed in front of the net on a centering feed from Perkins and then returned the favor, finding a wide-open Perkins in the low post, but she missed the puck, too.
With 8:22 to play in the game, Sonninchsen nearly stuffed the puck in from the doorstep, but Haken was there to make the save.
"He's really close. It's hard when he's a very talented young player, obviously, and we have to be careful, I think, not to put too much weight on his shoulders," Kiel said. "He's coming back and he's working hard. As long as he works hard and does the things we ask, he's going to be just fine.
"That's why he's getting a lot of playing time," he added. "He has the skills, obviously, and those pucks will start dropping at some point."
Haken continued his tremendous effort between the pipes, stoning junior Steve Horne on a breakaway with a sprawling kick save and later denying Sonninchsen, again, on another breakaway with under four minutes to play.
"We needed to punch it in there. A couple times it looked like we had a goal and it just didn't happen," Kiel said. "We're still working on offense. It's something we're going to have to work on all season long."
Coming out of a time out with only 1:11 left in the final frame, the Wolves put the game away when John Bailey corralled a pass from behind the net which snuck through the sticks of multiple Kenai defenders and he wristed it over the shoulder of Barrett for the 3-1 final.
"We came out in the first half of the first and I thought we looked really good. Then I thought we let up and I thought going into the second as well," he said. "Then I really thought coming down the last part of the last half of the game we picked it up again. We gained some confidence and we started doing some things, making some offense happen."
On Saturday, the Wolverines dominated the Kardinals to the tune of four first-period goals, six second-period tallies and two more goals in the third period.
South's Brad Shierhorn and Spencer Brodt each had a hat trick while Ryan Kircher, Chris Cucullu, Gage Christianson, Connor Wright, Raymond Redmond and Charlie Matthews all found the back of the net on Barrett, who had his his hands full, turning away 40 of the 52 shots he faced.
WOLVES 3, KARDINALS 1
Eagle River 1 1 1 3
Kenai 1 0 0 1
First period 1. Kenai, Sonninchsen (Perkins, No. 5), 5:37; 2. Eagle River, Russell (unassisted), 11:56, (pp). Penalties Kenai 4 for 16:00.
Second period 3. Eagle River, Veins (Thompson, Voice), 1:41. Penalties Eagle River 1 for 2:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Third period 4. Eagle River, Bailey (Sperry, Russell), 13:49. Penalties Eagle River 3 for 6:00, Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Eagle River 7-9-6 22; Kenai 3-5-12 20.
Goalies Eagle River, Haken (20 shots-19 saves); Kenai, Barrett (22 shots-19 saves).
WOLVERINES 12, KARDINALS 0
South 4 6 2 12
Kenai 0 0 0 0
First period 1. South, Kircher (Murray, Cucullu), 0:35; 2. South, Cucullu (Carson), 4:20; 3. South, Christianson (unassisted), 9:35; 4. South, Schierhorn (Wright, Carson), 10:32 (pp); Penalties Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Second period 5. South, Brodt (Murray, Cucullu), 0:39; 6. South, Schierhorn (Haider, Wright), 1:07; 7. South, Schierhorn (Haider), 3:46; 8. South, Brodt (Kircher), 8:06; 9. South, Wright (Schierhorn, Carson), 12:59; 10. South, Matthews (Peterson), 14:10. Penalties South 2 for 4:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Third period 11. South, Redmond (Christianson), 2:18; 12. South, Brodt (Allred), 10:14. Penalties South 3 for 6:00, Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal South 21-20-11 52; Kenai 3-6-3 12.
Goalies South, Barr (12 shots-12 saves); Kenai, Barrett (52 shots-40 saves).
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