The Soldotna hockey team proved to its coach Friday that it could beat any team in the North Star Conference when it plays well. The problem for Stars bench boss Aaron Swanson was that his squad proved that fact by not playing well.
The Stars lost to Colony 3-2 Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center. The Knights improved to 4-0 in the league and 7-2 overall heading into a showdown with Kenai Central Saturday night for first place in the league. The Stars dropped to 4-5 overall and 1-1 in the NSC. Soldotna’s Saturday game against Palmer was still in progress as the Clarion went to press.
“We feel there isn’t any team in the conference we can’t beat if we play well,” Swanson said. “By the same token, if we come out and play like we did tonight, we’re not going to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Meanwhile, Colony coach Dale Mattson was happy with the way his team played. The Knights outshot the Stars 36-18. Mattson was particularly happy with the play of his top line. He said the unit was able to control the puck every time it was on the ice.
“Soldotna’s defense did a good job of keeping us from getting a clear path to the goal,” Mattson said. “We didn’t get a lot of high-quality shots. A lot of the shots we had were through traffic.”
Soldotna was able to keep the score close despite being outshot thanks to the goaltending of freshman Chance Rocket.
“He was the one bright spot tonight,” Swanson said.
Colony received goals from Austin Manelick and Blake Huppert to jump out to a 2-0 lead less than three minutes into the second period.
Starting in the second period, the Stars hurt themselves with penalties. In the second and third periods, Colony had a total of two penalties for four minutes while Soldotna had seven penalties for 22 minutes.
“I’m happy we were able to play clean hockey,” Mattson said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been stressing this year.”
Despite the penalties, Soldotna was able to come back. Ben Christianson scored on assists from Clayton Glick and Brian Herring midway through the second period. Colony made it 3-1 a little over a minute later when Chris Breck skated the length of the ice against some loose defense and blew a wide-open shot past Rocket.
With three minutes left in the game, Soldotna cut the gap to 3-2 on a power-play goal by Glick, assisted by Laurion and Waldrip. Glick immediately drew a roughing penalty after netting the goal, though.
“That was a snapshot of the game,” Swanson said. “We score a goal to get back in the game, but then a stupid penalty puts us in the box for two minutes.”
After killing off the penalty, the Stars were never able to seriously threaten Colony goalie Tyrel Henkel in the final minute.
KNIGHTS 3, STARS 2
Colony 1 2 0 3
Soldotna 0 1 1 2
First period 1. Colony, Manelick (B. Huppert, Pauling), 10:01. Penalties Colony 2 for 4:00; Soldotna 1 for 2:00.
Second period 2. Colony, B. Huppert (Frank), 2:22; 3. Soldotna, Christianson (Glick, Herring), 6:49; 4. Colony, Breck (un.), 8:03. Penalties Colony 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 4 for 8:00.
Third period 5. Soldotna, Glick (Laurion, Waldrip), 11:55. Penalties Colony 1 for 2:00; Soldotna 3 for 14:00.
Shots on goal Colony 13-16-736; Soldotna 7-6-518.
Goalies Colony, Henkel (18 shots, 16 saves); Soldotna, Rocket (36 shots, 33 saves).
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