The Skyview High School hockey team gave Soldotna all it could handle through the second and third periods of play Saturday night, but the Stars made an early lead stand up for a North Star Conference victory at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"We pretty much showed up to play," said Soldotna's Brennan Best. "We got our heads in the game right from the start, got a quick goal and kept playing the whole game."
The Stars scored the first goal of the game just 1:44 into the first period as Best tapped home a puck played across the crease. Clayton Glick and Brian Herring assisted on the play.
The Stars continued to fire some hard shots on Skyview goaltender Nick Hawkins and kept buzzing around the net in search of a rebound.
Soldotna's Ben Christianson made it 2-0 at 11:06 of the first period, backhanding a rebound past Hawkins. Erik Shapley received an assist on the play.
The Panthers responded with their best scoring chances of the period, putting one hard shot on Soldotna goaltender Kyle Kay and following it up with a couple of scrums in front of the Stars goal.
The Panthers opened the second period with a flurry of quality chances on the Stars goal, but Kay did well to keep Skyview off the scoreboard.
Herring made the effort pay off as he broke free for a Soldotna goal at 7:13 of the period, firing a laser past Hawkins from a stride inside the blue line. Best and Shapley assisted on the play.
The Panthers kept the pressure on, though, and Scott Ralston poked a puck away from Kay to cut the Skyview deficit to two goals at 7:37 of the frame. Paddy Iverson earned the assist.
Ralston struck again just 34 seconds later as the puck slipped past Kay during a pile-up in front of the goal. C.J. Kirby was credited with an assist.
Soldotna regained its two-goal cushion late in the period, though, converting on the first power play of the game. Jake Bishop knocked the puck home after the Stars won a face-off in the Skyview zone with assists going to Christianson and Kevin Laurion.
While the Stars had the advantage through the first period and the Panthers carried the momentum through the second period, the third period was wide open and end to end.
Despite plenty of good bids at both ends of the ice, Christianson scored the only goal of the period with the Stars on a penalty kill. Christianson got a stick on an errant pass at the point, then beat the Skyview defensemen to the other end of the ice to put the puck away at 11:06 of the period.
"We started slow in the first period, so we were playing catch-up the rest of the night," said Skyview coach Pete Iverson. "Those little mistakes cost you, and we made a few too many little mistakes."
The Stars were playing shorthanded due to a few injuries and illness, and coach Aaron Swanson said he was pleased with the effort he got from the team he was able to put on the ice.
"Everyone skated hard," said Christianson.
Best said the Stars have improved as a team.
"We're starting to pick it up. A lot of these younger guys are getting the feel of it, getting into the flow of things," Best said.
Both the Stars and the Panthers head to Mat-Su for games with Wasilla, Palmer and Colony next weekend.
Stars 5, Panthers 2
Soldotna 2 2 1 5
Skyview 0 2 0 2
First period 1. Soldotna, Best (Glick, Herring), 1:44; 2. Soldotna, Christianson (E. Shapley), 3:54. Penalties none.
Second period 3. Soldotna, Herring (Best, E. Shapley), 7:13; 4. Skyview, Ralston (Iverson), 7:37; 5. Skyview, Ralston (Kirby), 8:03; 6. Soldotna, Bishop (Christianson, Laurion), 12:52 pp. Penalties Soldotna 1 for 2:00, Skyview 2 for 14.
Third period 7. Soldotna, Christianson (unassisted), 11:06 sh. Penalties Soldotna 2 for 4:00.
Shots Soldotna 14-5-1029, Skyview 7-12-524.
Goalies Soldotna, Kay (24 shots, 22 saves); Skyview, Hawkins (29 shots, 24 saves).
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