Skyview wasn't the only one surprised by John Schwenke Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center. The Nikiski sophomore goalie also surprised himself.
Schwenke, a first-year skater playing in just his second game, made 18 saves to lead the Bulldogs to a 4-3 victory over Skyview in nonconference action.
"I can't believe that I did all that I did tonight," Schwenke said.
He wasn't the only one.
In Thursday night's game against Palmer, Schwenke made just 18 saves on 27 shots in a blowout loss. So Friday, when Brandon Sachwitz cruised in for a shorthanded goal with just 3:49 gone in the first period, the Panthers probably figured another rout was on.
"That goal kind of changed the way we were playing," Skyview coach Pete Iverson said. "We slowed down and stopped attacking the net.
"We were a victim of overconfidence."
Skyview allowed Josh Winters a breakaway with 7:06 left in the first. Winters took advantage by beating goalie Kyle Kay high and to the stick side.
Shortly after that, Schwenke got on track. With 6:35 left in the first, a Skyview player took a pass across the mouth of the goal and knocked a shot right for the middle of a seemingly open net. But Schwenke bounded across the mouth of the goal to make a jaw-dropping save that would have made SportsCenter -- if it covered high school hockey, that is.
"We have great faith in him," Nikiski coach Al Anderson said of his netminder. "He was pouncing on that puck like a cat pounces on a mouse.
"He has the moves. It's just fascinating and fun to watch him."
Winters' goal and Schwenke's save combined to stir up the Bulldogs into scoring three consecutive goals. The scores came by Lex Litzen, Billy Anderson and Brett Allemann and gave Nikiski a 4-1 lead with 4:57 left in the second period.
The only question now was whether Schwenke and the Nikiski defense would hold up.
Skyview narrowed the gap with 2:36 left in the second on a second goal by Sachwitz. Then, Skyview's Joel Christianson really cranked up the heat when he scored just nine seconds into the third period to make it a 4-3 game.
"That made both (Nikiski) coaches quite nervous," Anderson said of Christianson's quick strike. "I knew if we could just regain the momentum and keep it going, it would work out, and it did."
Nikiski didn't regain the momentum as much as it simply put a muzzle on any momentum the game had. After 24 shots in the first two periods, the Bulldogs had just three in the last period. Skyview, meanwhile, managed only five shots after Christianson's goal to start the period.
"It was our typical problem here at Skyview -- we weren't shooting the puck," Iverson said after his team dropped to 3-6-1. "We came out strong in the third period and had the opportunities, but we weren't putting it home."
The final horn touched off a celebration by the Bulldogs that had more of the feel of a region championship than a nonconference, regular-season game.
Anderson said this was the best his team had played all year.
"We're really rolling now, and we haven't skated on Nikiski ice yet due to the weather," Anderson said. "Hopefully, over the break, we'll get our own ice."
Saturday, Nikiski kept the good feeling going with a 5-4 victory over Homer at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility. The win moved Nikiski's record to 5-9 overall. Allemann scored the game winner with 1:38 left in the game.
BULLDOGS 4, PANTHERS 3
Nikiski 2 2 0 --4
Skyview 1 1 1 --3
First period -- 1. Skyview, Sachwitz (un.), 3:49; 2. Nikiski, Winters (Anderson), 7:54; 3. Nikiski, Litzen (Pepper), 9:40. Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00; Skyview 2 for 4:00.
Second period -- 4. Nikiski, Anderson (un.), 7:46; 5. Nikiski, Allemann (Oliva, Russell), 10:03; 6. Skyview, Sachwitz (Iverson, Carver), 12:24. Penalties -- Nikiski 3 for 6:00; Skyview 2 for 6:00.
Third period -- 7. Skyview, J. Christianson (Sachwitz), 0:09. Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00; Skyview 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal -- Nikiski 12-12-3--27; Skyview 8-7-6--21.
Goalies -- Nikiski, Schwenke (21 shots, 18 saves); Skyview, Kay (27 shots, 23 saves).
BULLDOGS 5, MARINERS 4
Nikiski 1 1 2 --5
Homer 1 3 1 --4
First period -- 1. Nikiski, Litzen (Kendall, Russell), 0:31; 2. Homer, Bucher (No. 5), 10:24. Penalties -- Nikiski 1 for 2:00; Homer 2 for 4:00.
Second period -- 3. Homer, Owen (Bucher), 0:38; 4. Homer, Owen (Adams, Brown), 6:26; 5. Homer, Trieweiler (Brown), 12:01; 6. Nikiski, Russell (Pepper, Litzen), 14:59. Penalties -- Nikiski 5 for 10:00; Homer 3 for 6:00.
Third period -- 7. Nikiski, Allemann (Winters), 3:48; 8. Homer, Brown (Adams, Trieweiler), 12:09; 9. Nikiski, Allemann (Litzen, Russell), 13:22. Penalties -- Nikiski 2 for 4:00; Homer 0 for 0:00.
Shots on goal -- Nikiski 14-13-10--37; Homer 7-7-5--19.
Goalies -- Nikiski, Schwenke (19 shots, 14 saves); Homer, Smith (37 shots, 33 saves).
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