Nikiski goalie Sam Zulkanycz makes a stop in the third period Saturday morning against Delta at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Nikiski fought hard through another tough weekend, but the pains of youth and inexperience were again prevalent.
The Bulldogs dropped a pair of Greatland Conference games to visiting Delta Junction at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility. Alan Waldo scored a pair of goals in Friday’s 4-0 decision while Trevor Gilbertson scored twice in Saturday morning’s 7-0 outcome.
Nikiski was tough throughout, particularly goalie Sam Zulkanycz in Friday’s defeat. The Huskies, now 3-2 in the Greatland and 4-4 overall, were helped by the Bulldogs’ mistakes within their defensive zone.
“We just turned the puck over too many times in our defensive zone,” Nikiski head coach Mario Bird said. “I’ll give them credit, they certainly moved the puck better today than they did last night. But on the other hand, we gave them every opportunity to do so by turning the puck over in our zone.”
Zulkanycz, in what is becoming an unfortunate trend, faced 48 shots Friday night and saved 44. He added another 29 saves on 36 shots Saturday. Delta’s Gary Seville recorded complete-game shutouts with 37 saves on as many shots, including 20 Saturday.
“Last night, our goalie, Sam Zulkanycz, stood on his head to make a save and probably did a few back handsprings as well,” Bird said. “He faced 48 shots and saved 44 of them. He’s played out of his head. It was the first home game, so I think the crowd got behind him and he just played excellent.”
Saturday’s crowd was sparse and so too were chances for scores by Nikiski, which fell to 1-8 in the Greatland, 1-10 overall and hosts Skyview Tuesday.
Bird said the Bulldogs have had trouble creating offensive pressure in the last few games. He said that is not surprising since over half of the Bulldogs are underclassmen.
“As they learn, we’ll take our lumps as the season progresses and hopefully down the road, we’ll learn our lessons and get some pressure off Sam,” Bird said. “He’s played very well facing 40 shots a night.”
Nikiskis Zach Alkire tries to keep Deltas Alan Waldo from the puck in the third period Saturday morning.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Waldo, Gilbertson and Curtis Cornelius scored for the Huskies in the opening period. Cornelius’ goal came just as the horn sounded to end the period. Waldo and Gilbertson scored at 5:08 and 13:29 of the period, respectively.
Adding insult to misery, each of the first two goals were less than 15 seconds after Nikiski killed the Huskies’ power-play opportunities.
Gilbertson and Caleb Brown added second-period goals. The final scores came from Michael Pflugnad and Zach Erickson.
Delta got two assists each from Waldo and Brown, and one each by Cornelius, Pflugnad, Robert Smith, Garrett Smith and Lowen Ewing.
“Alan Waldo showed some great leadership skills out there, moving the puck, and integrating his teammates into the flow of the play,” said Delta head coach Chris Zachgo. “We have to have him do that. I’d like to see Lowen Ewing do that, because he’s the senior and is supposed to be the leader.”
In Friday’s game Waldo, a sophomore, scored unassisted early in the second period for a 2-0 lead and again midway through the period on an assist from Gilbertson to close the scoring.
Delta got a first-period goal by Brown assisted by Cornelius and Ewing. The Huskies’ third goal was scored by Ewing with an assist from Garrett Smith.
“Delta is a young team as well,” Bird said. “They’re not as physical as we like to play. I was emphasizing a hitting game and a hustle game as opposed to one where we sat back and tried to pick out spots. The first period (Saturday) we came out and were even up on shots 11-11, but as the game wore on our guys tired out. So it’s back to the rink, skating. We will most definitely get conditioning.
“But it’s a long season. We don’t wrap up for over a month and a half. Our goal is to be ready to play our best hockey after the Christmas break and with a young team, I think that’s the approach you have to have.”
HUSKIES 4, BULLDOGS 0
Delta Junction 1 3 0 4
Nikiski 0 0 0 0
First period 1. Delta, Brown (Cornelius, Ewing), 14:40. Penalties none.
Second period 2. Delta, Waldo (unassisted), 1:53; 3. Delta, Ewing (G. Smith), 3:45; 4. Delta, Waldo (Gilbertson). Penalties Nikiski 1 for 2:00.
Third period None. Penalties Delta 1 for 2:00; Nikiski 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal Delta 18-17-1348; Nikiski 4-8-517.
Goalies Delta, Seville (17 shots, 17 saves). Nikiski, Zulkanycz (48 shots, 44 saves).
HUSKIES 7, BULLDOGS 0
Delta Junction 3 2 2 7
Nikiski 0 0 0 0
First period 1. Delta, Waldo (unassisted), 5:08; 2. Delta, Gilbertson (Ewing), 13:29; 3. Delta, Cornelius (Pflugnad, Brown), 14:59 (pp). Penalties Delta 2 for 4:00; Nikiski 3 for 6:00.
Second period 4. Delta, Gilbertson (G. Smith, R. Smith), 4:27; 5. Delta, Brown (Waldo), 13:26. Penalties Nikiski 1 for 2:00.
Third period 6. Delta, Pflugnad (Cornelius, Brown), 1:28; 7. Delta, Erickson (Waldo), 2:23. Penalties Delta 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Delta 14-8-1436; Nikiski 11-5-420.
Goalies Delta, Seville (20 shots, 20 saves); Nikiski, Zulkanycz (36 shots, 29 saves).
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