Chugiak didn’t focus on any specific Soldotna player on Friday night, rather choosing to employ a team defense in defending SoHi.
Perhaps the Stars should have done the opposite and centered their full attention on Mustangs forward Micah Wheeler.
The junior scored two goals and added two assists and Chugiak netted three goals in just over a minute during the second period in downing Soldotna, 6-1, at the Soldotna Sports Center. The Stars were playing Homer on Saturday night at the Sports Center as the Clarion went to press.
Instead of zoning in on SoHi’s starting junior forwards Ben Christianson, Eli Waldrip or Clayton Glick who happened to record the Stars’ lone goal Chugiak coach Rodney Wild’s club performed as a nearly impenetrable, cohesive unit, controlling the neutral zone and not allowing Soldotna’s scorers to have any decent chances.
“We try to avoid focusing too much on one guy because if you focus on one guy, that’s going to open up somebody,” Wild said. “We just try to play more of a team defense. Everybody does their job and not worry about, too much, what particular player’s on the ice.”
SoHi had trouble containing the Mustangs’ leading points scorer, who netted the eventual game-winner when James received a pass in the neutral zone and sped down the left side before cutting in and feeding Wheeler, who slid it by Stars’ goalie Micah Perletti.
“He’s one of those guys we expect to produce for us offensively,” Wild said of Wheeler, who is averaging more than two points a game this season.
The Star’s answered quickly and trimmed the deficit to one when Glick found the back of the net only four seconds later, but that was all the offense they’d muster.
That wasn’t the case for Chugiak.
With nearly three minutes remaining in the second, Patrick Shepard slid the puck past Perletti during a scramble in the crease only six seconds into a power play.
Unfortunately for SoHi, that was just the beginning.
Twenty-seven seconds later, Kyle Whetham cradled the puck behind the net and found Jesse Frechione planted in front, who put it by Perletti. Only 41 seconds after that, Trevor Stefan lifted the puck over Perletti’s left shoulder off a centering pass from McMullen, who recorded three assists. It was Chugiak’s third goal in a 1:08 span.
“Again, we’ve got some kids, when things go well for us, they move the puck,” Wild said. “We’re not maybe quite as skilled depthwise as a team like South or even Dimond, maybe. But when we move the puck around and create space for ourselves and use speed and move it around, then they’re pretty tough to keep track of.”
Wheeler assisted on the game’s first goal when he fed McMullen for a 1-0 Chugiak (11-3) advantage and later capped off the scoring with a tally 3:39 into the final frame.
While both squads spent an equal amount of time in the penalty box, Chugiak dominated on the offensive end, outshooting the Stars, 36-10, and affording SoHi only one shot in the third period.
“We’ve got some kids who can put the puck in the net,” Wild said. “We haven’t always been successful doing that, but it’s nice on a night like (Friday) where you shoot the puck.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at matthew.carroll @peninsulaclarion.com
MUSTANGS 6, STARS 1
Chugiak 2 3 1 6
Soldotna 1 0 0 1
First period 1. Chugiak, McMullen (Wheeler, Frechione), 8:41; 2. Chugiak, Wheeler (McMullen, Stefan), 12:55; 3. Soldotna, Glick (Christianson, Waldrip), 13:17. Penalties Chugiak 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Second period 4. Chugiak, Shepard (Linder), 11:55, (pp); 5. Chugiak, Frechione (Whetham, Kubitz), 12:22; 6. Chugiak, Stefan (McMullen, Wheeler), 13:03. Penalties Chugiak 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Third period 7. Chugiak, Wheeler (McMullen), 3:39, (sh). Penalties Chugiak 4 for 8:00, Soldotna 5 for 10:00.
Shots on goal Chugiak 10-15-1136; Soldotna 3-6-110.
Goalies Chugiak, McCurtain (10 shots-9 saves); Soldotna, Perletti (36 shots-30 saves).
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