Necessity is the mother of invention. Friday night at the Soldotna Sports Center, due to the ailing state of his team, Kenai Central coach Brian Gabriel Sr. invented a new strategy: racquetball on skates.
The tact paid off handsomely as the Kardinals collected a 5-2 North Star Conference victory over Skyview to improve their record to 1-1 in the NSC and 3-5 overall.
Heading into the game, Gabriel Sr. knew the Kardinals would be short on energy due to illness.
"There's a lot of hacking and coughing going on in that locker room right now," Gabriel Sr. said after the game. "We've got a lot of guys that are sick.
"Even I'm sick."
Owen Brewer, the sparkplug of Kenai's team, also was sick. Brewer missed Thursday night's game against Houston, and played only a few shifts Friday.
"We did a lot of quick changing on the fly and short shifts," Gabriel Sr. said. "We also tried to play smart hockey.
"When you watch a good racquetball player, he doesn't move around much. He knows the game and the basics so well, he doesn't have to. That's the type of hockey we wanted to play."
The Panthers shot out of the gate with little pity for the Kardinals. With 8:04 left in the first period, Brandon Sachwitz won a face-off to Paddy Iverson, who ripped the puck past Kenai goalie Garrett Myers.
The Kardinals answered quickly, though. With 6:18 left in the first period, Garrett Bossert got the puck near the Skyview net and showed nice patience waiting for a play to develop. Bossert eventually slid the puck across the mouth of the goal to Ryan Hicks, who tucked it home.
Under a minute later, Micah Lillard chased down a loose puck in the Kenai zone and put it in front of the net for John McGlasson, who gave the Kards a 2-1 lead.
"It seems like every time we score, they answer it," Skyview coach Pete Iverson said. "We have to keep everybody pumped up and focused on what's going on.
"We can't overcelebrate one goal."
In the second period, Skyview drew even when Joel Christianson took advantage of a breakdown in Kenai's power-play defense and skated in for a golden chance on Myers.
That goal came with 12:14 left in the period. Less than a minute later, Kenai was on top again when Adrian Borchgrevink beat Skyview goalie Kyle Kay with a wrist shot. The Kardinals finished off the Panthers when Philip Ischi scored later in the second period and Cory Janson scored late in the third period.
For Gabriel Sr., it was nice to see forwards like Hicks and McGlasson scoring, because Kenai has relied heavily on the line of Brewer, Borchgrevink and Ischi this year.
"We got our forwards together (Thursday) and went around and asked them to each tell how many goals they had scored this year," Gabriel Sr. said. "There were a lot of meek 1's and 0's.
Kenai's Micah Lillard and Skyview's Gabe Fellman tangle in front of the Kenai bench during the second period Friday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"I was happy to see some of those guys scoring tonight."
Gabriel Sr. said he was particularly pleased with the play of Ryan Hicks and the steady goaltending of Myers, who had 17 saves on 19 shots.
Iverson, meanwhile, came away happy with the improvement his team is showing. He said Skyview was able to create far more chances than the last time Kenai and Skyview played.
"We played with a lot more confidence this game than we did the last game we played them," Iverson said.
Iverson particularly lauded the play of Brandon Sachwitz, Joel Christianson and Kay, who made 41 saves on 46 shots.
KARDINALS 5, PANTHERS 2
Skyview 1 1 0 --2
Kenai 2 2 1 --5
First period -- 1. Skyview, Iverson (B. Sachwitz), 6:56; 2. Kenai, R. Hicks (Bossert, Henson), 8:42; 3. Kenai, McGlasson (Lillard, Z. Hicks), 9:33. Penalties -- Skyview 1 for 2:00; Kenai 0 for 0:00.
Second period -- 4. Skyview, J. Christianson (L. Fellman, P. Christianson), 2:46; 5. Kenai, Borchgrevink (Goldsby, Ischi), 3:24; 6. Kenai, Ischi (Borchgrevink, Reynolds), 8:14. Penalties -- Skyview 4 for 8:00; Kenai 5 for 10:00.
Third period -- 7. Kenai, Janson (R. Hicks), 13:39. Penalties -- Skyview 3 for 6:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal -- Skyview 9-6-4--19; Kenai 19-10-17--46.
Goalies -- Skyview, Kay (46 shots, 41 saves); Kenai, Myers (19 shots, 17 saves).
Houston 4, Skyview 3, OT
The Hawks held on for a victory Saturday night at the Soldotna Sports Center in nonconference action.
The win meant Houston swept a three-game run through the central Kenai Peninsula Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Kenai 9, Wasilla 2
The Kardinals blew past the Warriors in the North Star Conference contest Saturday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
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