When it came to goals, the 2002 Alumni Hockey Game came through with quality, not quantity.
Behind two goals from 2000 Soldotna graduate Lee Green, including a stunning laser from the blue line, Soldotna defeated Kenai 2-1 late Sunday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The win snapped a two-year losing streak for Soldotna in the alumni game, which has been held during the Christmas break every year since 1995 to benefit the Kenai and Soldotna high school hockey programs. The Stars now have a 5-3 lead in the overall series.
Sunday night saw the fewest goals in the history of the game.
Kenai won the first game 5-4 in 1995 before Soldotna won by a combined score of 29-14 in the years 1996-98.
The Stars and Kards then played to a 6-6 tie in 1999 before SoHi triumphed in a six-man shootout. Kenai then came back with a 6-4 win in 2000 and a 10-9 victory last year.
Sunday's game appeared ready to explode into another high-scoring contest. With just 28 seconds off the clock, 1998 SoHi graduate Jason Avigo hit Green with a pass right in front of the Kenai goal. Green casually tucked the puck past 2000 Kenai graduate Nick Wirz.
Wirz's slow start was understandable because he hadn't played goalie since last year's alumni game. After Green's goal, however, Wirz reverted to the form that had kept Kenai in so many close games during his high school tenure.
Wirz went on to save 24 of the next 25 shots he would face. It's the one that got by him that fans will be talking about for a while.
Midway through the second period, Green, a sophomore defenseman playing Division I hockey at the University of Alaska Anchorage, got the puck near center ice and promptly beat a couple of Kenai defenders.
Green then raced to the blue line, where he unleashed a pea that beat Wirz high and to the stick side.
"I didn't see it," Wirz said of Green's shot. "It was fast.
"I saw it leave his stick. I saw it in the back of the net. But I never saw the shot."
Although it was an alumni game, there were factors that made the two-goal lead for Soldotna midway through the second period look insurmountable.
Soldotna got solid goaltending all evening from 2002 graduate Kenny Bishop and 1993 graduate Karl Glick. The duo combined to make 27 saves on 28 shots.
"I never really saw anything back there that worried me," said Bishop, who did not allow a goal in his 22 minutes in net.
Then there was the Soldotna defense, led by Green and 1995 graduate Anthony Zurfluh, who just stopped playing with the Anchorage Aces last year.
"When you're in a faceoff and you see Green and AZ sitting in there, you're thinking, 'Yeah, right. Like I'm going to split these guys,'" said Brian Gabriel Sr., a 1979 graduate of Kenai and current coach of the KCHS high school team.
Gabriel Sr. said it would have helped having Kenai graduate Brian Canady, who skates for Division I North Dakota. But Gabriel Sr. said Canady, who was at the game Sunday, could not play due to a shoulder injury.
The Kardinals still managed to provide an exciting finish. With 51 seconds left in the game, Kenai pulled the goalie for an extra skater.
Tim McCarthy, a 1994 Kenai graduate, made the strategy pay off when he beat Glick with 43 seconds left.
Kenai never got a good chance at the equalizer after that, though.
"We were finally able to score, but it just took us too long to put anything together," McCarthy said.
STARS 2, KARDINALS 1
Soldotna 1 1 0 --2
Kenai 0 0 1 --1
First period -- 1. Soldotna, Green (Avigo, Waisanen), 0:28. Penalties -- Soldotna 1 for 2:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 2. Soldotna, Green (Neese), 7:05. Penalties -- Soldotna 3 for 6:00; Kenai 3 for 4:00.
Third period -- 3. Kenai, McCarthy (Forest), 14:17. Penalties -- Soldotna 6 for 12:00; Kenai 6 for 12:00.
Shots on goal -- Soldotna 10-5-11--26; Kenai 6-16-6--28.
Goalies -- Soldotna, Bishop (14 shots, 14 saves), Glick (20 shots, 19 saves); Kenai, Wirz (26 shots, 24 saves).
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