While Kenai and Soldotna's current hockey teams were busy duking it out on the ice in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys, alumni went stick to stick and helmet to helmet for three hours of hockey action Saturday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Kenai ended up on the top end of 10-9 decision in a close-fought game that included eight ties and three lead changes. The game-winner didn't come until 7:07 left, when Johnny Bea finally put the ledger permanently in Kenai's favor.
Kenai's Tim McCarthy also had a big night, netting a hat trick. Bea assisted on all three of the goals.
It was more than just another hockey game, though. Saturday also was a reunion for players and fans alike.
For some it was an opportunity to tie on the old skates and try their slap shot in old skating grounds. For others, who are still familiar faces in the world of zambonis and hat tricks, it was a chance play with friends from old high school lines.
Whether they were players on Christmas break from their Junior A and college teams in the Lower 48 or alumni still in the area who just wanted a chance to show a hometown crowd they still have what it takes, graduates from all four area high schools played in the game.
But before the puck was dropped and the skates starting gliding, each player was introduced in turn. The announcer updated hockey fans, telling which team players were skating for Outside squads and which high school they called their alma mater.
In a change from previous alumni games, graduates from both Skyview and Nikiski skated on the Soldotna and Kenai teams, respectively.
Soldotna's startling lineup of Lee Green, Joey Newby, Trevor Sherman, Derek Anderson and Wayne Maxwell started the game off with a bang that only continued when SoHi netted the first goal of the game at 2:07 into the first period.
The goal, by Ben DeRaeve, sailed past Kenai goaltender Nick Wirz on an assist by SoHi's Ian Tracy. Another goal by SoHi's Anderson followed soon at 3:11 into the game, with an assist by both Green and Newby.
Already down by two after only a little more than three minutes on the ice, the Kenai team responded to SoHi attacks and stepped up both offensively and defensively.
Kenai's homegrown hockey hero, Brian Canady, netted the team's first goal on an assist from McCarthy 7:39 into the first period. Fifteen seconds later in a flip-flop of roles, Canady, in cahoots with Bea, assisted McCarthy in shooting past SoHi netminder Shane Cotnam for Kenai's second goal.
The Stars grabbed the lead back with 4:51 left in the period, when Wirz went down too soon and Maxwell successfully tapped it in behind the goalie.
Although Kenai responded with an unassisted goal by Dustin Every, SoHi was quick to retaliate. With 2:28 left in the first, SoHi's Maxwell, on assists from Anderson and Green, put SoHi up 4-3 to end the first period.
Following the general theme of the game, Kenai's next goal followed after only 32 seconds of play in the second period.
Travis Every then helped his younger brother Dustin secure his second goal of the night for No. 5 on Kenai's side of the scoreboard. The elder Every would go on to score Kenai's ninth goal with Dustin's assistance.
SoHi's goal tied the game at 5 just seconds after Every's goal. Green, assisted by Scott Waltemyer and Kyle Waisanen, found the net at 3:23 in the second period. Teammate John Gleason followed suit with unassisted goal to return the lead to Soldotna.
Again, seconds later McCarthy netted his second goal of the game on another assist from Bea. However, he was rewarded for his efforts with two minutes in the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Shortly thereafter, Carl Glick replaced Cotnam as SoHi's goaltender and with 12:15 gone in the second period he let in an unassisted goal by Nikiski's Quincy Bird. Damien Polzin, a Skyview grad, netted SoHi's seventh goal of the game with help from teammate Waisanen. After Travis Every's goal, Ryan Hakkinen of SoHi forged another tie -- this time at 8 -- on assists from Green and Tracy.
The third period proved to be a little bit more rough and tumble. DeRaeve of SoHi and Terry Eubanks of Kenai both received two minutes for roughing shortly into the period, while McCarthy netted his hat trick goal on a third assist from Bea for a 9-8 Kenai lead.
Travis Every earned a visit to the penalty box for slashing at 3:09 and was later removed from the ice for a game misconduct. Penalties increased on both sides after SoHi evened it up with a goal by Tracy on an assist by Hakkinen.
At 5:47 of the last period both Kenai and Soldotna earned coincidental minors. Following later in the game, Sherman of Soldotna got two minutes for holding and two more for roughing, while Canady got two for roughing. In a third period of little goal scoring and more penalty minutes, SoHi's Waltemyer found himself in the box for roughing and Mike Brown of Kenai also earned two minutes for slashing.
The final and winning goal of the game was scored by Bea, who after three assists, found the net himself with 7:07 left on assists by Bryon Coleman and Canady.
The remainder of the game was essentially quiet, with only one more penalty of two minutes for delay of game by Coleman, who celebrated his 21st birthday on the ice.
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